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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Yahoo settles China dissident case

Yahoo on Tuesday reached an out-of-court settlement with the families of two Chinese journalists who were jailed in their home country after the internet company identified their online activities to the authorities.

The ending of a human rights lawsuit brought by the families in a San Francisco district court came just a week after Jerry Yang, Yahoo chief executive, was strongly criticised by a congressional committee and urged to make recompense for his company’s actions.

Yahoo has agreed to cover the legal costs of the plaintiffs but said details of the settlement were confidential.

It said it would work to provide financial, humanitarian and legal support to the families. It would also create a humanitarian relief fund to support other dissidents and their families.

Tom Lantos, who chaired the House committee on foreign affairs hearing into the jailing of journalist Shi Tao, said the settlement was long overdue.

“It took a tongue-lashing from Congress before these high-technology titans did the right thing and coughed up some concrete assistance for the family of a journalist whom Yahoo had helped send to jail. What a disgrace,” he said.

He added that Yahoo officials had still not reached out to Shi Tao’s family 21 months after he had first requested this.

Jerry Yang met the family and that of Wang Xiaoning, the other journalist in the lawsuit, after the hearing.

Wang Xiaoning was sentenced to 10 years in prison after posting an article on a Yahoo group that called for democratic reform, while Shi Tao received a 10-year sentence after sending an email from his Yahoo account to an overseas pro-democracy foundation.

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