- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

BEIJING (AP) — Yahoo Inc. has provided Chinese authorities with information used to jail one of its users for eight years, an activist group said yesterday — the second time the U.S. Internet giant was accused of helping jail a Chinese user.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said Yahoo’s Hong Kong unit provided information about Li Zhi, a man from southwestern China who was sentenced to prison in 2003 for subversion after posting comments online criticizing official corruption.

Mary Osako, a spokeswoman for the company, said Yahoo didn’t know of the case and couldn’t comment on whether the group’s account was accurate.

However, Ms. Osako said Yahoo Hong Kong would not have had access to Mr. Li’s Chinese account — and it never releases information to the Chinese government.

She said the company was investigating whether Yahoo China, run by partner company Alibaba.com, released the data.

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists called for Yahoo to disclose information on Internet writers whose identities it has revealed to China.

“We are disturbed that Yahoo has once again provided account-holder information that has been used to jail an Internet writer,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the New York group. “We call on Yahoo to make a complete public disclosure of how many such requests it has received.”

The House International Relations Committee in the U.S. Congress has scheduled a hearing Wednesday on ethical responsibilities of companies doing business in China.

Activists criticized Yahoo last year after it was disclosed that the company provided information that Chinese authorities used to convict and jail reporter Shi Tao for revealing state secrets.

“Now we know Yahoo works regularly and efficiently with the Chinese police,” Reporters Without Borders said.

The group urged Internet companies to use U.S.-based servers in “repressive countries” so governments must comply with American law when getting information on users.

Ms. Osako said that when the company receives government subpoenas, it isn’t usually told how information will be used. Only legally required information is turned over, she said.

“The choice in China and other countries is not whether to comply with law-enforcement demands for information,” the Yahoo spokeswoman said. “Rather, the choice is whether to remain in the country.”

Yahoo was “distressed” when it learned of the facts surrounding the Shi Tao case, she said.

In that case, Chinese authorities demanded information from Yahoo’s China unit, which complied with Chinese law, Ms. Osako said.

She said earlier accounts saying the information was supplied to Chinese authorities by Yahoo’s Hong Kong arm were incorrect.

Yahoo formed a partnership in October with China’s Alibaba.com, which runs Yahoo’s mainland China operations.

An Alibaba spokesman said yesterday that the company had no information about the 2003 case because it occurred before the partnership with Yahoo was formed.

Its chief executive officer, Jack Ma, said earlier his company would cooperate with authorities seeking information on “politically sensitive information” sent by a Yahoo e-mail customer.

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