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US Congress panel summons Yahoo officials over ‘false’ testimony on jailed China journalist

Posted by Author on October 19, 2007

AFP, Oct.16, 2007-

WASHINGTON (AFP) — An influential US Congressional panel on Tuesday summoned top officials of Yahoo for a hearing after accusing the Internet giant of providing false information over a case in which a journalist was thrown in jail in China for a decade.

Tom Lantos, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on foreign affairs, asked the officials to appear at the hearing planned for November 6 to discuss the circumstances under which Chinese journalist Shi Tao was jailed after Yahoo provided user information to Beijing.

Shi Tao, was convicted in 2005 of divulging state secrets after he posted a Chinese government order forbidding media organizations from marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising on the Internet.

Police identified him using information provided by Yahoo. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

The US corporation defends its action on the grounds that it has to comply with China’s laws to operate there.

“Our committee has established that Yahoo provided false information to Congress in early 2006,” Lantos said, referring to a hearing in February last year when the company’s senior vice president and general counsel, Michael Callahan, was grilled over Shi Tao’s case.

“We want to clarify how that happened, and to hold the company to account for its actions both before and after its testimony proved untrue. And we want to examine what steps the company has taken since then to protect the privacy rights of its users in China,” said Lantos, a senior Democrat lawmaker.

Callahan and Yahoo chief executive officer Jerry Yang were asked to appear at the upcoming Congressional hearing.

During the previous testimony, Yahoo claimed it “knew nothing” about the nature of the investigations into Shi Tao’s case but “we have now learned there is much more to the story than Yahoo let on,” said Chris Smith, a Republican lawmaker.

He said a Chinese government document that Yahoo had in its possession at the time of the hearing “left little doubt of the government’s intentions,” Smith said.

“US companies must hold the line and not work hand in glove with the secret police,” he charged.

But Yahoo countered Tuesday that the House panel’s decision to single out the company and accuse it of making misstatements was “grossly unfair and mischaracterizes the nature and intent of our past testimony.

“As the committee well knows from repeated meetings and conversations, Yahoo representatives were truthful with the committee. This issue revolves around a genuine disagreement with the committee over the information provided,” Yahoo’s Tracy Schmaler said in a statement to AFP.

She said that businesses in China faced “difficult questions of how to best balance the democratizing forces of open commerce and free expression with the very real challenges of operating in countries that restrict access to information.

“This challenge is particularly acute for technology and communication companies such as Yahoo,” she pointed out.

Yahoo is engaged in a multi-stakeholder process with other companies and human rights groups to develop a global code of conduct for operating in countries around the world, including China, Schmaler said.

It is also working with the US State Department to deal with issues on a “diplomatic level.”

“We believe the answers to these broad and complex questions require a constructive dialogue with all stakeholders engaged in a collaborative manner,” Schmaler said.

She hoped the House committee would approach the upcoming hearing “in that same constructive spirit.”

– Original report from AFP

One Response to “US Congress panel summons Yahoo officials over ‘false’ testimony on jailed China journalist”

  1. […] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerptUS Congress panel summons Yahoo officials over ‘false’ testimony on jailed China journalist Posted by chinaview on October 19th, 2007 AFP, Oct.16, 2007- WASHINGTON (AFP) — An influential US Congressional panel on Tuesday summoned top officials of Yahoo for a hearing after accusing the Internet giant of providing false information over a case […]

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