Washington, DC – The House Foreign Affairs Committee today asked top officials of Yahoo! Inc. to testify at a hearing on how the Internet company gave false information to Congress about its role in a human rights case in China that sent a journalist to jail for a decade.
Committee Chairman Tom Lantos has asked Yahoo! Chief Executive Officer Jerry Yang and the company’s senior vice president and general counsel, Michael Callahan, to appear at a hearing planned for November 6 to discuss the company’s disclosure of information to Chinese authorities about the case of Shi Tao and the implications of the company’s current business model with regard to future disclosures.
“Our committee has established that Yahoo! provided false information to Congress in early 2006,” Lantos said. “We want to clarify how that happened, and to hold the company to account for its actions both before and after its testimony proved untrue. And we want to examine what steps the company has taken since then to protect the privacy rights of its users in China.”
“Last year, in sworn testimony before my subcommittee, a Yahoo! official testified that the company knew nothing ‘about the nature of the investigation’ into Shi Tao, a pro-democracy activist who is now serving ten years on trumped up charges. We have now learned there is much more to the story than Yahoo let on, and a Chinese government document that Yahoo had in their possession at the time of the hearing left little doubt of the government’s intentions,” said Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ). “U.S. companies must hold the line and not work hand in glove with the secret police.”
At a February 2006 subcommittee hearing on limits to freedom on the Internet in China, Lantos and Smith questioned Callahan about the case of Shi Tao. A reporter and editor for a Chinese newspaper, Shi was arrested in his home after posting material about a government crackdown on media and democracy activists on an overseas Web site, Democracy Forum, under a pseudonym. Police in Beijing found him after Chinese authorities asked Yahoo! to provide information about his e-mail account, including his IP address, log-on history and the contents of his e-mail over several weeks.
Callahan said at the hearing that when the company divulged this identifying material, “we had no information about the nature of the investigation.” In late July 2007, the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation released documents showing that police had written Yahoo! specifying that they sought evidence about Shi in a case of suspected “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities,” a charge frequently invoked against political dissidents in China.
Sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for divulging state secrets abroad, Shi has appealed the verdict to the Hunan Higher People’s court, arguing that he was unaware that the information was classified and that police used improper procedures in the investigation and arrest. Shi is also seeking damages in U.S. federal court against Yahoo! and its Hong Kong-based subsidiary.