Yahoo! Dissident Wang Xiaoning to be Released

Wang Xiaoning is to be released from prison on Friday following a ten-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power” in a series of online essays. Wang was one of around 60 people prosecuted on the basis of information handed to Chinese authorities by Yahoo. From the Associated Press:

Wang Xiaoning’s wife Yu Ling said in a phone interview that the Beijing No. 2 Prison told her of his release Friday morning and that she should meet him at the prison gate.

[…] Rights groups said that passages from writings cited at his trial in 2003 included: “Without a multiparty system, free elections and separation of powers, any political reform is fraudulent.” Others called China an “authoritarian dictatorship,” and complained of continuing widespread corruption, poverty and workers exploitation.

A lawsuit Wang and others filed in the United States showed that Yahoo’s wholly owned subsidiary based in Hong Kong gave police information linking Wang to his anonymous e-mails and other political writings he posted online.

Yahoo could not immediately be reached for comment.

Yu told AFP that Wang’s political rights will be suspended for another two years, and that he has been mistreated in prison but remains in reasonable health.

Yahoo was also involved in the prosecution of journalist Shi Tao, who is still serving a ten-year sentence passed in 2005 for leaking state secrets. Wang and others later sued the US company, which settled in 2007 for an undisclosed amount. Yahoo founder and then-CEO Jerry Yang later urged the Bush administration to demand Wang and Shi’s release.

These cases illustrate the legal entanglements that come with a physical business presence in China. Google avoided storing sensitive user information on Chinese servers in order to avoid any similar predicament, but was still forced to filter search results and eventually left the Chinese mainland. Twitter alarmed users in January with an announcement that the service would selectively block posts in accordance with local laws, a move widely suspected of being a concession to allow entry to the Chinese market. CEO Dick Costolo quickly clarified, however, that “I don’t think the current environment in China is one in which we can operate“.

See also a 2007 Wired article on Wang’s case (via Isolda Morillo), and more on Wang and Yahoo via CDT.


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