Wife Of Jailed Chinese Dissident Suing Yahoo For Handing Over His Info

from the that-can't-be-good-for-the-old-PR-campaign dept

It's no secret that Yahoo has, at times, turned over information on its users to the Chinese government. Various groups have condemned Yahoo for doing so, but now the company may face a bigger threat. The wife of one such jailed dissident, has come to the US to sue Yahoo (via the Raw Feed), claiming that it's because of Yahoo's actions that her husband is in jail for 10 years for posting "subversive" articles on the internet. She's asking for damages and an apology. It will be interesting to see whether or not this actually goes anywhere. She may not have much in the way of legal standing, since the actions all happened in China (it was Yahoo's Hong Kong office that gave out the info), and China, obviously, doesn't appear to have much in the way of regulations to protect privacy on such things. It's hard not to feel sympathy for her, but it's not clear what legal recourse she'll actually have against Yahoo.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    The Swiss Cheese Monster, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 1:14am

    First thing I learned about law: you can ALWAYS sue.

    You might not win, but you can still try.

    Would be interesting to see how things turn out in such a case. I wonder if there is any precedent for such a thing.

    Maybe this will be such bad press for Yahoo! that they will just give up and give her a chunk of change. But then again, that might open up a whole can of worms for the company.

     

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  2.  
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    Jack Sombra, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 1:51am

    She has not got a chance

    While we might disagree with the Chinese laws, they are that, laws and her husband broke them

    Yahoo was doing what it was legally obliged to do, same as if a european government asked yahoo to reveal information about a pedophile.

    It's not for Yahoo, a company, to decide if a law is "right or wrong" but rather to just follow it.

     

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  3.  
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    BigRedDog, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 2:01am

    Re: She has not got a chance

    Well, with this kind of reasoning it would be OK for Yahoo! to deliver information facilitating say ethnic cleansing ...

    You'd just need a law for that ... like Germany had in the thirties and forties ...

     

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  4.  
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    Tashi, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 2:25am

    Too bad China doesn't have a crappy military and too bad China isn't sitting on a shitload of oil. People would be shouting for regime change instead of shrugging their shoulders about a company doing business with a communist, draconian state that throws its citizens in jail because of something that probably pertained to... what? Oh... democracy maybe? And people say Communism is dead. Meanwhile the U.S. is trying to figure out how to get rid of Hugo Chavez? Oh yeah he IS sitting on a shitload of oil.

    "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

    UN Declaration of Human Rights- which obviously sounds nice but doesn't mean shit. And certainly doesn't apply to China...a member of the UN. This isn't a business issue. It's a moral issue and an issue of conscience. If it happens in one place, it can happen anywhere.

     

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  5.  
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    PT, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 4:42am

    Question about law and responsibilities

    I have a question regarding how multinational corporations are suppose to behave. If Yahoo is incorporated in the United States, isn't the company suppose to follow US laws in addition to the country in which they operate? Then if a law conflicts with each other, which laws supersede the other? Who bears responsibility if a crime was committed if both sides know it was committed?

    Seems to me that Yahoo operating in Hong Kong may not have broken any privacy laws in China (since there are none) but because Yahoo is a US entity, I would have thought the main US headquarters could be held responsible for what happened provided that someone can bring a civil if not criminal suit against them. Well seems this woman is doing just that. She may actually have a chance to win if her lawyers don't screw this up.

     

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  6.  
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    Trouble Maker, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 5:08am

    two cents worth

    ...check the EULA, I am sure you will find that Yahoo does not support illegal acts. You can not use Yahoo to commit a crime. Hence, they are protected.

    But this case will be like the bugler that hurts himself while he is robbing a house then sues the house owner for an unsafe work environment.

    Yahoo, acted like a motorist that reports a drunk driver, can the drunk driver sue the motorist for reporting him breaking the law?

    Sounds to me like she is the dissident, and probably nagged the guy to post her manifesto.

     

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  7.  
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    Jack Sombra, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 5:57am

    "Then if a law conflicts with each other, which laws supersede the other? "
    Neither, regardless of how the USA and it's citizens see it, their laws and ways of life do not carry more weight or importance than those of another country

    One must find a way to comply with both or
    a) Break one law and face the consecunces
    b) Get out of the juristiction of one of the countrys so you no longer face the contradiction

    "She may actually have a chance to win if her lawyers don't screw this up."
    Nope it will be most likely tossed out of court as it will be viewed that everything was done totally outside the juristiction of the court aka China

    Though then again...USA is the country that thinks it laws apply everywhere, when it suits them and that no law exists outside the USA when it suits them (CIA kidnapping/Gitmo so forth)

     

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  8.  
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    PT, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 6:00am

    Re: two cents worth

    Yahoo, acted like a motorist that reports a drunk driver, can the drunk driver sue the motorist for reporting him breaking the law?


    Probably more accurately, Yahoo was asked (coerced?) by the police to give testimony that they saw the drunk.

    Unless Yahoo, of their own free will, blew the whistle without any prompting from the Chinese authority? Or they blew the whistle ahead of time knowing the Chinese authorities would come a-knocking? But that would mean Yahoo themselves are tracking what is said and posted within their services with orders from the Chinese government to do so. Or at the Yahoo offices in Hong Kong, there are Chinese government employees watching Yahoo closely?

     

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  9.  
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    JAM, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 6:05am

    Re:

    There is a remote precedent albeit far fetched. IG Farben was sued for cooperation with Nazi concentration camps and forced to pay for their actions to the families of victims. That being said, her chances are very small. The crime of the company is not on the same level, the China did not lost a war and in addition to this, modern western elites and media are generally shielding and excusing communist and socialist crimes agains human right, so she will never get the same support as victims of fascists.

    JAM

     

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  10.  
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    Gabriel Tane (profile), Mar 8th, 2007 @ 6:47am

    Very slippery

    There's just too many ins and outs for us to make a prediction. This is one that will be told by the courts. Of course, that doesn't stop us from tossing our pennies about, so here's my pair...

    1) If Yahoo was told by the government to do this, you can bet it was backed up with a threat of "or else we'll boot you from here". That means they made the moral decision to turn over a human being (or, more accuratley, a large group of human beings) for a market place. Bucks over people.

    "It's not for Yahoo, a company, to decide if a law is "right or wrong" but rather to just follow it."
    -Jack Sombra

    You're correct... but you missed one point. It is for that company to decide to do business in such an immoral environment. Are the 30 peices of silver worth it? Apparently so.

    2) I know the UN can't do anything about Yahoo's business practice, but...
    " 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.'

    UN Declaration of Human Rights- which obviously sounds nice but doesn't mean shit. And certainly doesn't apply to China...a member of the UN. This isn't a business issue. It's a moral issue and an issue of conscience. "
    -Tashi

    This brings up an excellent point (and question). Thanks Tashi.

    This is obviously a public issue. This isn't obscure. So why isn't the UN sanctioning, or at least publicly speaking against, one of their members breaking thier rules. Hell, if I was a member of a club and I blatenly broke the rules, they'd kick me out.

    Maybe (and watch out for the dripping cynicism here) it's because the whole world knows the UN is toothless and impotent. Maybe it's known that the UN hasn't the balls to truly step up and defend the values it claims to hold dear. Hell, if it did, we Americans would be screwed. And rightly so.

    Who's next on the soap box?

     

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  11.  
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    Overcast, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 7:05am

    Actually, if the UN had the guts to stand up to it's own resolutions - Iraq would have been dealt with 20 years ago. Many issues wouldn't fall upon either the US to deal with or just be ignored.

    When has the UN actually *done* something that's really made much of a differance anywhere?

    You can say; this or that, but as we see - time as the judge, whatever they have done amounts to nothing - 3rd world countries still arming, most places in the world are in worse shape than they were 50 years ago, the exception would be those who have adopted democracy and capitalism (like Japan, for instance)

    But the whole middle east is still a hotbed of violence, Africa's still ran by brutal dictators and warlords. China's not much different than it was in 900BC, just some new technology - still a dynasty, really.

    Not so sure if it matters if she wins or not - if she doe, in fact, win - I'd expect many, many more such lawsuits to follow. So you can guarantee Yahoo will try to get this dealt with fast, but I doubt they will back down - but who knows?

     

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  12.  
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    UN Tooth fairy, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 8:22am

    The UN was a great idea to begin wtih, but it started failing once it failed to actually enforce it's declarations and agreements on it's member nations.

    Iraq probably being one of the most recent and notorious examples. "IF" the UN would have enfored the weapon's inspections, which all sides had agreed to, the US would have had no case against Iraq. Would Bush & Co found something else as a substantiated reason to go to war? Who knows, but that was the core reason. Everything else was just fluff added by ALL sides.

    Back to China now.

    The UN has lost it's teeth now and really is defunct. With China being such a power-house (some US fanatics might disagree with me), there is no way any outside force can bring about any real change within the Chinese regime. The only power that can truly change the course of China, is it's people.

    Unfortunately Yahoo and any other companies are not going to be much help in the Chinese peoples attempt to change the country from the inside out....

     

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  13.  
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    UN Tooth fairy, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 8:24am

    Oh, and by the way this lady is not going to get any financial judgement against Yahoo. She will without a doubt get much publicity, and because of that Yahoo may agree to settle with her out of court before this whole thing snowballs into a big 20/20 - Dateline episode...

     

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  14.  
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    Overcast, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 9:06am

    Thing is - if Yahoo settles, it opens the door for many more such suits..

     

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  15.  
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    Daniel Barbalace, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 9:43am

    Re: She has not got a chance

    > While we might disagree with the Chinese laws, they are that, laws and her husband broke them

    You may disagree with the Nazi laws during the 1930s, but they were the laws and many people courageously broke them.

    You may disagree with American laws from the 1860s, but they were the laws and Harriet Tubman broke them.

    You may disagree with the English colonial laws of the 1700s, but our founding fathers broken them repeatedly.

    Perhaps, right and wrong should take precedence over legality. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat the darkest moments of history.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 10:03am

    Good for her. The chineese are evil. YHOO isn't much better. Hope she wins millions! (However unlikely)

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 10:09am

    Re:

    The precedent that a win like this will create will be very interesting.

     

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  18.  
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    Witty Nickname, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 11:56am

    How to win this case

    In my extensive experience watching Boston Legal, I have learned that any 'feel good' case is winnable. As long as the following criteria are met.

    1. The judge is somehow strage/excentric/sexy
    2. Your council makes fun of opposing council regularly
    3. You have Alan Shore as your council
    4. Your council is sleeping with at least one of his co-workers, opposing council, or the judge.
    5. Your council gives a STIRRING closing argument (#5 is actually the most important)
    6. (Optional) Have William Shatner sitting at your table and have him say "Denny Crane" at least twice.

     

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  19.  
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    cagoodguy, Mar 9th, 2007 @ 3:56pm

    Re: She has not got a chance

    if yahoo would just close it's office in hong kong it would make a better statement to the world. bad press won't affect them and i'm afraid this won't get any mainstream press at all. this is the first i've heard of it

     

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  20.  
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    Someone doesn't like amercain, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 2:38am

    You evil americans were fooled by your stupid american media. If you are against amercian government, your email will be given to the american government by yahoo as well. Then you will be arrested secretlly by CIA agent and you will be sent to Cuba amercain jail by unmarked cargo.

     

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