The Chinese Government Says Democracy is the Answer to China's Future.....(no really..)
Rockstar Inxs: Episode 27

News: Yahoo Provided Information that jailed Chinese journalist.

Awaiting a Democratic Hong Kong

Nice one Yahoo! And they used to be such a good company with so much ethics and hope.  

The Internet under surveillance
6 September 2005
Information supplied by Yahoo! helped journalist Shi Tao get 10 years in prison

The text of the verdict in the case of journalist Shi Tao - sentenced in April to 10 years in prison for "divulging state secrets abroad" - shows that Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. provided China's state security authorities with details that helped to identify and convict him, Reporters Without Borders said today.

"We already knew that Yahoo! collaborates enthusiastically with the Chinese regime in questions of censorship, and now we know it is a Chinese police informant as well," the press freedom organisation said.

"Yahoo! obviously complied with requests from the Chinese authorities to furnish information regarding an IP address that linked Shi Tao to materials posted online, and the company will yet again simply state that they just conform to the laws of the countries in which they operate," the organisation said. "But does the fact that this corporation operates under Chinese law free it from all ethical considerations? How far will it go to please Beijing?"

Reporters Without Borders added: "Information supplied by Yahoo! led to the conviction of a good journalist who has paid dearly for trying to get the news out. It is one thing to turn a blind eye to the Chinese government's abuses and it is quite another thing to collaborate."

Translated into English by the Dui Hua Foundation (which works to document the cases of Chinese political prisoners), the verdict reveals that Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. provided the Chinese investigating organs with detailed information that apparently enabled them to link Shi's personal e-mail account ( and the specific message containing information treated as a "state secret" to the IP address of his computer.

Yahoo ! Holdings (Hong Kong) is subject to Hong Kong legislation, which does not spell out the responsibilities in this kind of situation of companies that provide e-mail services. Nonetheless, it is reportedly customary for e-mail service and Internet access providers to transmit information to the police about their clients when shown a court order.

Tests carried out by Reporters Without Borders seem to indicate that the servers used for the e-mail service, from which the information about Shi was extracted, are located on the Chinese mainland.

Shi Tao
Aged 37, Shi worked for the daily Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News). He was convicted on 30 April of sending foreign-based websites the text of an internal message which the authorities had sent to his newspaper warning journalists of the dangers of social destabilisation and risks resulting from the return of certain dissidents on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Chinese state security insisted during the trial that the message was "Jue Mi" (top secret). Shi admitted sending it out by e-mail but disputed that it was a secret document. He is still being held in a prison in Changsha to which he was sent after his arrest in the northeastern city of Taiyuan on 24 November 2004.

Yahoo! and Chinese censorship
For years Yahoo! has allowed the Chinese version of its search engine to be censored. In 2002, Yahoo! voluntarily signed the "Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the China Internet Industry", agreeing to abide by PRC censorship regulations. Searches deemed sensitive by the Chinese authorities such as "Taiwan independence" in Chinese into the Yahoo! China search engine, retrieve only a limited and approved set of results.

A US-based multinational, Yahoo! Appears to be willing to go to any lengths to gain shares of the Chinese market and it is investing heavily in local companies. In 2003, it spent 120 million dollars to buy the search engine More recently Yahoo! acquired a large stake in the Internet giant Alibaba in an operation that reportedly cost nearly a billion dollars. Reporters Without Borders has written several times to Yahoo! executives in an attempt to alert it to the ethical issues raised by its Chinese investments. These letters have so far received no answer.

For more information, go to



Time to change Bromgrev's email provider ...


Seconding Bromgrev's motion ...

If anyone wants a gmail account, I've got 50 invites to spare ...


Yeah me too!! I have been meaning to transfer my paid Yahoo! account forever.... now I have a motive.

Rebecca MacKinnon

I doubt GMail will be much better. Their terms of use are very similar to Yahoo's when it comes to reserving the right to disclose your information to authorities:

"# Privacy. As a condition to using the Service, you agree to the terms of the Gmail Privacy Policy as it may be updated from time to time. Google understands that privacy is important to you. You do, however, agree that Google may monitor, edit or disclose your personal information, including the content of your emails, if required to do so in order to comply with any valid legal process or governmental request (such as a search warrant, subpoena, statute, or court order), or as otherwise provided in these Terms of Use and the Gmail Privacy Policy. Personal information collected by Google may be stored and processed in the United States or any other country in which Google Inc. or its agents maintain facilities. By using Gmail, you consent to any such transfer of information outside of your country."


Hi Rebecca,

I am so suprized you came here...

Here is what I have to say, and I did some reasearch for this story as well, so this is also what I told RSF.

Unless there is a privacy law enacted in the said country over internet information, then by law any ISP will have to give up information when a warrant is issued.

ALL Privacy policy only extends to selling of collected information to third parties, it's got nothing to do with law enforcement.

Having worked in an ISP in HK, I know that they will give up information if requested by police no question.

In the US the laws protecting privacy over the internet was not passed so in that country as well, it will be disclosed.

No company will ever put their employees in jeopardy over one customer. They are there to make money, not make a point of privacy issues.

HOWEVER, Yahoo! Hong Kong is NOT under the juridiction of the CCP. They are under the Hong Kong government, and therefore legal matters such as passing on information to the Chinese government is a "favor," at best. Yahoo!cn share the same management as Yahoo!HK who is an subsidery of the US company, which is listed on NASDAQ.

This is a public company.

It should not be an issue whether gmail will do it or not if the situation arises (I am sure they will because they followed suit with blocking words earlier this year) but they have NOT yet.

The issue is making this story public, and if you can gain momentum if people giving up their yahoo! account on this issue, all the better. Not whether Gmail falls from the same tree.

I personally am going to cancel my PAID yahoo! account over this. Been meaning to do this for ages, but this is an incentive.

If gmail does the same. I move somewhere else most probably. I don't think it's a problem to encourage a service change by users who are concerned with this issue.



Rebecca MacKinnon

I totally agree with you, we should show our disapproval of these companies' behavior, despite the fact that it is predictable.

However I also think that those of us who understand how these things work legally and technically have a responsibility. A lot of people in China are using "foreign" email services thinking they have some greater degree of protection than if they use Chinese ones. This is not actually true. People need to understand very clearly that using Yahoo! or Gmail to do dissident work is almost as dangerous as sending it by postcard. We need to help spread this awareness so that people are better informed and know how to protect themselves. Human Rights and dissident organizations receiving information from people inside China have a responsibility to make it very clear to these people that they MUST NOT do things like send sensitive information using Yahoo! and Gmail .. and certainly not from their office and home computers! In this case, Shi Tao emailed from his office, giving police a clear trail. This does not excuse the Chinese government's arrest of him in any way, nor does it excuse Yahoo!, but if he was better informed about the risks he was taking, perhaps he wouldn't have been caught.

tim fong
a good resource for encrypted email. still can't protect you if the machine has a key logger.



I didn't reply until now because I was thinking about what you said and was wondering "How," to let people know as you suggested.

I don't think we do now. The story just broke. All the major papers and all the major news agencies.

big news, I hope it saves someone else.


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