In July 2007, Dui Hua researchers uncovered information that exposed Yahoo!’s role in the arrest of Chinese journalist Shi Tao (师涛) and led to a highly publicized congressional investigation.
Three years earlier, in April 2004, Shi logged on to his email and forwarded to an overseas website an internal government directive warning journalists not to report on the fifteenth anniversary of the June Fourth killings in Tiananmen Square. Using information obtained from Yahoo!, Chinese police identified Shi as the owner of the email account. Arrested in November 2004, Shi was sentenced in 2005 by a Hunan court to 10 years in prison for trafficking state secrets.
In February 2006, then Yahoo! Senior Vice President and General Counsel Michael Callahan testified to Congress that Yahoo! “had no information about the nature of the investigation” when the company complied with the Chinese government’s request for Shi Tao’s account record.
On July 25, 2007, Dui Hua researchers uncovered and released the search warrant issued to Yahoo! by the Beijing State Security Bureau in April 2004. The warrant specified that “evidence is being sought in a case of suspected ‘illegal provision of state secrets to foreign entities,’” thus contradicting Callahan’s testimony. Five days later, Dui Hua released additional documents revealing Yahoo!’s role in providing information that was used as evidence to prosecute Chinese dissidents Wang Xiaoning (王小宁), Jiang Lijun (姜立军), and Li Zhi (李智) for subversion in connection with their writings.
Soon after Dui Hua released these documents, Congressman Tom Lantos reconvened the investigation into Yahoo!’s role in these cases. Callahan and then Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang were summoned to testify in November 2007. Yang argued that Yahoo! had to comply with local laws in China, while Callahan said the company did not learn about the details of those documents until after he first testified and apologized for not alerting Congress at the time. Congressman Lantos told the two men to beg for the forgiveness of Shi Tao’s mother, who was seated directly behind them. When they turned around to bow to her, she cried. After the testimony, Yahoo! paid an undisclosed sum to settle a lawsuit brought by the families of the imprisoned dissidents.
The release of police documents by Dui Hua was a turning point in the Yahoo! Internet cases. Since our establishment 15 years ago, our research team has uncovered and disseminated numerous documents and articles pinpointing censorship and other human rights issues in China.
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