Richard did not write this post and may not agree with it.
Regardless of the outcome, I think it’s good that Yahoo is being taken directly to task over what it did.
The internet company Yahoo! has become embroiled in a legal battle with a human rights group over a decision to disclose the identity of Chinese citizens, leading to their arrests. Yahoo! is being sued by the World Organisation for Human Rights, based in Washington, on behalf of Wang Xiaoning and his wife, Yu Ling. He is serving a 10-year prison sentence for advocating democratic reform in articles circulated on the internet.
The group is also suing Yahoo! on behalf of Shi Tao, a journalist serving a 10-year sentence for sending an email summarising a Chinese government communiquÃ© on how reporters should handle the 15th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. The suit alleges that these people – and others yet to be identified – were tortured or subjected to inhumane treatment at the hands of the Chinese authorities because of information that Yahoo!, Yahoo! China or Alibaba.com, a Chinese company in which Yahoo! has a minority stake, had passed on to the government.
Regardless of whether or not Yahoo! “had” to comply with Chinese law, it decided to operate in China and not contest the technically unconstitutional laws that were supposedly being quoted by the authorities. If it willingly operates in a country like China and does things that it knows will lead to people being abused, it can’t avoid the repercussions.
No one has to sell their soul to the Devil.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.