Critics take aim at the network gear maker's alleged cooperation with China's virtual curtain.
WASHINGTON-Cisco Systems has
strongly denied that it cooperates with the Chinese government in censoring
Falun Gong or other dissident groups. The accusations arose from a 6-year-old
sales document produced by Cisco that refers to the Chinese government's
efforts to quash the religious movement.
At the time, Cisco was approaching the Chinese government in hopes of
selling network gear to the regime's Golden Shield project, which aims to
suppress Internet expression by "Falong Gong and other hostile
elements." The document was the key evidence introduced May 20 here at a
Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on U.S. Internet companies' dealings with
According to the 90-page PowerPoint presentation, Cisco followed a slide
about the Chinese government's efforts to suppress Falun Gong and "other
hostile elements" with a slide stating, "Cisco Opportunity: High
start-point planning, High standard construction, Technical training, Security
and operation maintenance."
"The ... areas of potential assistance appear to flatly rebut Cisco's
repeated and self-serving claims it has merely sold routers and other equipment
security services," Shiyu Zhou, deputy director of the Global Internet
Freedom Consortium, told lawmakers.
Is there a secret hacking war between China and the United States? Click here to read more.
Cisco, though, claimed it was all a misunderstanding created by a low-level
Cisco Chinese engineer. "I was appalled when I saw the line in the slide,
and I'm very disappointed to see it," said Cisco Senior Vice President
A Cisco fact sheet distributed to the media claims the PowerPoint
presentation does "not represent Cisco's views, principles, or its sales
and marketing strategy or approach."
Chandler said the presentation
merely listed the Chinese government's goals.
He added, "Cisco ... has not and does not design products to accommodate
political censorship. The tools built into our products that enable site
filtering are the same the world over, whether sold to governments, companies
or network operators. The features in our equipment are 'off the shelf' and not
altered in any way for any market or region."
Yahoo, Google share the hot seat
Also testifying before the committee were Yahoo and Google, which have also
drawn concerned attention over their dealings with the Chinese government. In
2007, Yahoo raised the ire of congressional investigators for its role in
disclosing the name of Chinese dissident Shi Tao to the government. Tao is now
serving a 10-year prison sentence.
Google has been criticized for cooperating with the Chinese government in
censoring certain search terms on the company's Google.cn search engine.
Chandler said Cisco's operations
in China were
different from Yahoo's and Google's.
"Cisco is not a service or content provider, nor
are we a network manager," he said. "Cisco does not customize, or
develop specialized or unique filtering capabilities, in order to enable
different regimes to block access to information."