11/14/2007, 00.00
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Yahoo! admits guilt in helping China’s crackdown

Accused of helping China’s government to arrest and torture two journalists, the Internet giant decides to settle lawsuit to end US trial. It accepts to provide financial, humanitarian and legal support to the victims’ families and pay attorneys’ fees.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The international Internet services company Yahoo! yesterday decided to settle a lawsuit that accused it of “illegally helping the central government [of China] jail and torture two journalists.”

Neither side disclosed details other than to say that Yahoo! would pay the attorneys’ fees of Shi Tao and Wang Xiaoning, whom mainland China accused of revealing state secrets, and the family member who sued on their behalf. The company also said it would provide financial, humanitarian and legal support to their families.

The settlement has reopened debate over Internet companies co-operating with China’s government which denies freedom of speech and cracks down on journalists.

Until now Yahoo! had always maintained it complied with local rules as it does in every country where it operates.

But Yahoo’s co-operation turned into a public relations nightmare over the last week after harsh criticism was voiced around the world with users threatening boycott.

Politicians also waded into the controversy. “While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos told the company at a hearing.

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