Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Free Speech and Justice: Chinese Style
From the BBC - Oct. 3, 2005 (h/t to Yahoo News!):
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders has accused Yahoo of being "a police informant for the Chinese regime", following allegations that information supplied by the company helped jail a journalist.
"Rather than accept everything the Chinese authorities say, the big players could find a common position saying they will stick to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and their own values," said Julien Pain, head of the Internet Freedom desk for Reporters Without Borders.
"It is a myth that China is so powerful that it is impossible to discuss anything with them," he added.
Human rights watchdog Privacy International has called for a worldwide consumer boycott of Yahoo.
"A boycott would send a clear message to Yahoo shareholders and other companies which cheerfully sacrifice human rights in return for a cut of the Chinese market," said Privacy International director Simon Davies.
Shi Tao, the Chinese journalist at the centre of the Yahoo controversy, was sentenced in April to 10 years in prison for sending, via e-mail, the text of an internal Communist Party message to foreign websites.
The message warned journalists about the dangers of social unrest as a result of the return of dissidents on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
In essence then, Shi Tao forwarded an email which had been distributed by the government to members of the Chinese media, the content of which was a 'reminder' to the Chinese media that they should be careful not to encourage social unrest through their reporting of the return of the dissidents. Keeping this in mind, read and marvel at the court's intrepretation of this 'crime' which it is important to remember, was the simple act of passing on a government warning which, it may be assumed, was freely available due to it's very nature:
"This court finds that, in order (to) leak information to hostile elements outside of the country, defendant Shi Tao intentionally and illegally provided information that he knew to be top-secret level state secrets to an entity outside of the country. Having endangered state security and involving especially serious circumstances, his actions constitute the crime of illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities.
Therefore, the court accepts the prosecution’s charge that Shi Tao’s actions constitute the crime of illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities. Defendant Shi Tao argued in his defense: “My criminal act of providing state secrets to foreign entities did not involve especially serious circumstances.” This was investigated and it was found that, according to Item 1 of Article 2 of the Supreme People’s Court’s “Explanation on Certain Questions Regarding the Specific Application of the Law when Trying Cases of Stealing, Gathering, Procuring, or Illegally Providing State Secrets or Intelligence Outside of the Country,” stealing, gathering, procuring, or illegally providing state secrets are crimes with “especially serious circumstances.” The state secrets that defendant Shi Tao illegally provided outside of the country were verified by the State Secrecy Bureau as being top-secret level state secrets, and his actions should be considered to involve especially serious circumstances. Therefore, the defense argument cannot be accepted by this court.
Once they made the quantum leap where a press advisory became a 'State Secret', Shi Tao's fate was sealed. Presumably the same ingenious logic could be applied to a laundry list or a 'secret' recipe for wonton soup, should it suit their purpose.
The complete text (with English translation at the end) of the court's 'decision' is in a pdf file here.
Read complete BBC story here.
And here is a second article: Web companies too cozy with China, from the Anniston Star.
Afterthought: If you read the actual proceedings, you'll find that the person to whom Shi Tao was found guilty of betraying "State Secrets" was "overseas hostile element Hong Zhesheng from China’s Taiwan Province, resident of New York in the USA".
Question: How did the Chinese Court decide that this Taiwanese resident of the USA was a 'Hostile Element'? Doesn't the U.S. State Department have anything to say about this? If things are so cozy between the US and China, then why is this subversive element tolerated in the US? If not, why isn't the US speaking up for Democracy in China?
Let's get this straight: If you have strategic supplies like oil, then the US Armed Forces are right there beside you. But if you're one of the largest trading partners of the US, then you can say anything you want and you don't even get a crummy press release expressing indignation at the implied connection between the US and "Hostile Elements".
And here is the trial evidence provided by Yahoo which helped convict this newspaper editor of (essentially) treason: "4. Account holder information furnished by Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd., which confirms that for IP address 18.104.22.168 at 11:32:17 p.m. on April 20, 2004, the corresponding user information was as follows: user telephone number: 0731-4376362 located at the Contemporary Business News office in Hunan; address: 2F, Building 88, Jianxiang New Village, Kaifu District, Changsha" (ie- Shi Tao's newspaper office).
Actually, being jailed for 10 years might be considered a light sentence by many Chinese. Last week, I posted this:
"If his bicycle were red, or black, he'd be alive today......"