Reporters Without Borders said it had obtained a copy of the court verdict against Li Zhi (below), a former official jailed for eight years in December 2003, confirming that US firm Yahoo! collaborated with the prosecution, as did local competitor, Sina.
“The Li Zhi verdict shows that all Internet sector companies are pulled in to help when the police investigate a political dissident,” the press freedom organisation said.
“It is unacceptable that US firms should turn themselves into auxiliaries of a government that systematically tramples on the rights of Internet-users to freedom of expression,” it said.
“Yahoo! should urgently withdraw its content and email servers from this country before further requests of this kind are made of it. The fact that it operates in China through a local partner, Alibaba, does not in any way absolve it of its ethical responsibilities,” said the organisation.
The verdict showed that Yahoo! Hong Kong Ltd and Sina Beijing had supplied information confirming that Li Zhi had set up an email account using their services. It did not however say if the content of messages he sent or received had been handed over to the courts.
It also showed that a local telecommunications agency had helped the authorities find Li Zhi’s address and telephone number, based on the IP address used to access Yahoo! and Sina email boxes.
Some of Li’s emails and transcripts of his discussions on forums on Sina.com formed part of the charges drawn up by the National Security Bureau. The verdict also quoted an article that was posted on his personal website, hosted by Muzi.com, headlined “Why is China lagging behind?”
Chinese police made use of “witnesses” to confirm that Li was putting the Internet to subversive use. One of them revealed that the official had asked his advice on how to get round online censorship.
Li was accused of getting in touch via the Internet with Xie Wanjun, head of the banned China Democracy Party. A membership form was apparently also found on his computer.