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4/28/2006
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Yahoo Implicated In Jailing Of Fourth Chinese Advocate

A human rights group says a Chinese dissident was sentenced to 10 years in prison after distributing electronic writings through Yahoo. It is the fourth time the Internet company has been implicated in the jailing of a government critic.

The judgment does not indicate whether Yahoo Holdings or Yahoo China, which is now operated by China-based online marketplace Alibaba.com, provided specific information regarding Wang's identity. Yahoo owns a large stake in Alibaba.com, but not a controlling interest.

Yahoo Group administrators who noticed the political content in Wang's writings stopped distributing them in 2001, the judgment said, according to HRC. Wang then started sending his journal to individual email addresses.

Mary Osako, a spokeswoman for Yahoo in the United States, said Friday the Sunnyvale, Calif., company was unaware of the case.

"We condemn punishment of any activity internationally recognized as free expression, whether that punishment takes place in China or anywhere else in the world," Osako said in an email. "While we absolutely believe companies have a responsibility to identify appropriate practices in each market in which they do business, we also think there is a vital role for government-to-government discussion of the larger issues involved."

Earlier this month, Reporters Without Borders, an international group dedicated to freedom of the press, linked Yahoo Holdings to the arrest and jailing of Chinese activist Jiang Lijun, who was charged with advocating democracy in China and with planning to establish his own political party.

Advocates also claim that Yahoo provided information that led to the imprisonments of Chinese journalist Shi Tao, and pro-democracy activist Li Zhi.

U.S. Internet companies operating in China, the world's second largest market, have said they have to follow Chinese law, no matter how distasteful to Western countries, in order to do business under the communist government. Google Inc., Microsoft Corp.'s MSN and Yahoo, for example, censor their Chinese-language search results at the request of Beijing.

In sticking with their we-have-no-choice defense, Internet companies have called on the U.S. government to pressure Chinese officials to loosen their restrictions on speech.

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