09/03/2020, 12.40
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Chinese dissident suing Yahoo for complicity with Beijing in his arrest

Ning Xianhua is suing the US web services company. He took part in the pro-democracy protest in Tiananmen in 1989. He was arrested and convicted of subversion after Yahoo provided his emails to Chinese prosecutors. In a 2007 case, the internet giant favoured the arrest of a Chinese journalist. On that occasion, a US congressman called the company moral pygmies.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – A Chinese dissident who fled to the United States accuses Yahoo of helping the Chinese government prosecute and imprison him.

Ning Xianhua yesterday filed a lawsuit against Verizon, the US telecommunications giant that owns the web services company. The complaint, filed in a California court, alleges that Yahoo handed over private data from Ning’s e-mail account to Chinese authorities.

Ning, 69, took part in the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen in 1989, which were crushed by the government. He claims that he was subjected to violence and torture for years due to personal information provided by Yahoo.

Under US law, foreign nationals can ask for restitution for human rights abuses suffered abroad with the assistance of US entities.

The labour rights activist was convicted in 2004 of subverting state power, and spent seven years in prison before seeking asylum in the United States in 2016.

To support his allegations against Yahoo, Ning included a memorandum his lawyers say was used against him in the Chinese court that tried him. The document contains numerous emails that were allegedly used to indict and then convict him.

This is not the first time Yahoo has been accused of collaborating with China in cracking down against dissent in exchange for the right to operate in China’s huge market.

In a well-known 2007 case, a group of Chinese activists took the US company to court for helping Chinese authorities arrest Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was later sentenced to 10 years in prison for leaking state secrets.

Thanks to Yahoo, the Chinese authorities obtained an email that Shi had sent to foreign humanitarian organisations.

On that occasion, the company ended up in the crosshairs of the US Congress. “While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies,” said Tom Lantos, a Democratic US representative from California, during a hearing.

The relationship between big web companies and China has always been uneasy. Facebook is banned in China, but through its Instagram photo application it can reach 3.7 million users in China.

Like Facebook, Apple and Amazon, Google has recently aligned itself with the Trump administration's "nationalist" policy. However, the company was criticised in 2017 for opening an artificial intelligence laboratory in Beijing.

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