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Yahoo Denies RSF China Claim

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The saga of jailed Chinese journalist Shi Tao took a sharp twist when Reporters Without Borders accused a Yahoo executive of lying to Congress about Yahoo’s knowledge of Beijing’s investigation.

Journalist advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has been in a running feud with Yahoo over actions by China’s government against reporters. Those actions, including the jailing of Shi Tao, featured evidence against Shi obtained from Yahoo.

RSF furiously denounced Yahoo each time revelations of this cooperation, particularly in the cases of Jiang Lijun, Li Zhi, and Shi, emerged from court documents. The organization recently found more information about the Shi case that has them accusing Yahoo’s Mike Callahan of lying to Congress:

Yahoo! executive Michael Callahan told a US congressional committee in February 2006 that his company had been told nothing about the content of the investigation into Shi Tao which the Chinese authorities began in 2004. But in fact, China’s Department of State Security sent Yahoo! a document dated 22 April 2004 explaining that the authorities wanted information about an Internet user suspected of “illegally providing state secrets to foreign institutions.”

Callahan testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in February 2006. The Chinese Law Prof blog listed an excerpt of his testimony, which is no longer available from the Committee’s website:

Let me take this opportunity to correct inaccurate reports that Yahoo! Hong Kong gave information to the Chinese government. This is absolutely untrue. Yahoo! Hong Kong was not involved in any disclosure of information about Mr. Shi to the Chinese government.

In this case, the Chinese government ordered Yahoo! China to provide user information, and Yahoo! China complied with Chinese law. To be clear – Yahoo! China and Yahoo! Hong Kong have always operated independently of one another. There was not then, nor is there today, any exchange of user information between Yahoo! Hong Kong and Yahoo! China.

Yahoo provided this statement from a company spokesperson in response to a request for comment on RSF’s allegations:

"Mr. Callahan’s testimony to Congress last year was accurate and forthright. Mr. Callahan also clearly and directly condemned punishment of any activity recognized as free expression, whether in China or anywhere else in the world."

The Chinese Law Prof blog entry said if Callahan’s testimony was accurate, which Yahoo asserted to WebProNews today is the case, "the court is either dissembling or using forged evidence."

The PDF presented by RSF shows Beijing’s State Security Bureau addressed its Notice of Evidence Collection to ‘Beijing Representative Office, Yahoo! (HK) Holdings Ltd.’ This seems to indicate the request arrived at a Yahoo Hong Kong office in Beijing.

It is possible that the Beijing office knew of the request, but the Hong Kong-based office of Yahoo HK Holdings did not, or at least never informed Callahan of the request. There doesn’t appear to be a logical reason for Callahan to lie to the House Committee on this point, since Yahoo always claims it has to comply with local law enforcement requests.

It’s still odd to see such a contrast between the request RSF revealed, and Callahan’s testimony.

UPDATE: Rebecca MacKinnon has a link to Callahan’s full testimony from February 2006.

Yahoo Denies RSF China Claim
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