Family of jailed Chinese reporter considers suing Yahoo
Last Update: 5:52 AM ET Apr 3, 2006
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- The family of a Chinese journalist jailed for leaking state secrets is considering legal action against U.S. Internet portal Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) for its alleged role in providing information to authorities that led to his conviction, a Hong Kong lawyer said Monday.
"We are looking at taking legal action against Yahoo for providing information on Shi Tao to the Chinese government," said Albert Ho, who is representing the jailed journalist as his Hong Kong-based attorney. Ho also is a pro-democracy legislator and frequent critic of China's communist government.
Ho said he is working with Shi's mainland China lawyer to collect evidence in determining whether civil charges can be pressed against Yahoo at its headquarters in California or in Hong Kong. More
Shi, a former writer for the Changsha-based financial publication, Contemporary Business News, was sentenced under state secrecy laws to 10 years in prison in April 2005 for allegedly providing state secrets to foreigners.
His conviction stemmed from an e-mail he sent containing his notes on a government circular that spelled out restrictions on the media.
In Hong Kong, Ho filed a complaint last week with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, alleging Yahoo's Hong Kong affiliate, Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd., provided evidence to convict Shi of leaking state secrets.
"We are now waiting for a decision by the privacy commissioner whether to accept the case before deciding the next step," said Ho.
Ho on Friday released a document he said was a copy of the criminal verdict handed down to the reporter from a court in China's Hunan province.
"Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. provided materials that confirmed the user's information," the document said.
"The Chinese courts clearly indicated that Yahoo's Hong Kong branch had provided information," Ho said Monday in a telephone interview. "The company needs to be held responsible for the conduct of its local affiliate."
But the alleged document appears to contradict comments by Yahoo, which said evidence used to convict the journalist was provided by Yahoo's China unit.
"Yahoo Hong Kong wasn't involved in any disclosure of information in the Shi Tao case," Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako said from California.
"In the Shi Tao case, the Chinese government ordered Yahoo China to disclose information on Mr. Shi. Yahoo China complied with local laws, not Yahoo Hong Kong."
She said Yahoo Hong Kong and Yahoo China have always operated independently of each another.
Ho declined to speculate on when Hong Kong's privacy commissioner would rule on his complaint.
A spokeswoman at the privacy commissioner's office has confirmed the office received a complaint but has declined to give further comment.