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Essay by   •  April 15, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,096 Words (5 Pages)  •  991 Views

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�And of course, the information society’s very life blood is freedom. It is freedom that enables citizens everywhere to benefit from knowledge, journalists to do their essential work, and citizens to hold government accountable. Without openness, without the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers, the information revolution will stall, and the information society we hope to build will be stillborn.’

- Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General

Internet censorship in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has, for long, been a debatable issue in the global world. Though the PRC has come a long way in technological development, it is still wary of the threat free information creates for its Communist regime. Hence it is of little surprise that the PRC government wants to put blinders on its Netizens. China's censors have installed what critics dub the �Great Firewall of China’ - a giant filter to restrict what Chinese citizens can read on the Net.

This paper provides a brief overview of the use of the Internet by people as a tool to deny freedom of expression in China, focusing on both the Chinese government’s suppression of dissent and on the role of Yahoo in collaborating with the authorities. In particular, we talk about the role of Yahoo in the imprisonment of Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist who was found guilty of “divulging state secrets abroad”.

On the afternoon of April 20, 2004 Shi Tao, head of the Editorial Department of Contemporary Business News, located in Hunan Province, PRC, took notes at a department meeting. Those notes contained references to information in a CCP(Chinese Communist Party) official document entitled: "A Notice Regarding Current Stabilizing Work" -- a euphemism for the central government's efforts to keep dissent to a minimum on the eve of the anniversary of the protest in Tiananmen Square.

That night parts of those notes were emailed to the editor of Democracy Forum, an organization in New York, that later disseminated their contents. The Chinese government learned of the leak and began a search for the source. Information, in the form of an IP address and e-mail account, that assisted the Chinese police in locating him was supplied by Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd., a subsidiary of the U.S. based company.

That source was, in fact, Shi Tao and for this he was arrested by the Chinese authorities in November, 2004. He was subsequently tried and convicted of passing state secrets to an 'overseas hostile element' The vaguely-worded legal definition of what constitutes a �state secret’ gives the Chinese authorities broad discretion to detain those engaged in the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression. According to the transcript of the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court of Hunan Province, Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong), the US-based Internet company, provided account holder information that was used as evidence in the case against Shi Tao, which resulted in his 10-year prison sentence. A representative of Shi Tao’s family has filed a privacy complaint with Hong Kong’s office for the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data against Yahoo’s Hong Kong subsidiary for its role in the case.

Liu Xiaobo’s Letter to Yahoo!:

Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident and an advocate of free speech, in a scathing letter to Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, has criticized him for collaborating with �evil’ in the eventual arrest of Shi Tao. He writes-

International companies are ignoring basic human rights in return for business opportunity, while the Communist party is offering profits in return for continued control of the internet and the ability to intimidate dissidents.

“The collusion of these two kinds of ugliness means that there is no way for western investment to promote freedom of speech in China, and that in fact it greatly increases the ability of the Communist party to blockade and control the internet.”

“You are helping the Communist party maintain



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(2011, 04). Yahoo!. Retrieved 04, 2011, from

"Yahoo!" 04 2011. 2011. 04 2011 <>.

"Yahoo!.", 04 2011. Web. 04 2011. <>.

"Yahoo!." 04, 2011. Accessed 04, 2011.