U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-Calif., said on Oct. 16 Yahoo misled his panel at a 2006 hearing about the companys role in providing the Chinese government with information that sent journalist Shi Tao to jail for a decade.
Lantos has scheduled a Nov. 6 hearing about the matter and has asked Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and the companys chief legal counsel, Michael Callahan, to testify.
"Our committee has established that Yahoo provided false information to Congress in early 2006," Lantos said in a statement. "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."
Lantos added, "And we want to examine what steps the company has taken since then to protect the privacy rights of its users in China."
A reporter and editor for a Chinese newspaper, Shi was arrested in his home after posting material under a pseudonym about a government crackdown on media and democracy activists on an overseas Web site, Democracy Forum. The Chinese government found Shi in Beijing after Yahoo provided information about his e-mail account, including his IP address, log-on history and the contents of his e-mail.
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During the 2006 hearing on Internet companies doing business in China, Lantos and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., asked Callahan about the Shi Tao case. Callahan testified that Yahoo "had no information about the nature of the investigation."
Lantos and Smith said they later learned Yahoo knew more about the investigation than it originally admitted.
"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 governments intentions," Smith said in a statement. "U.S. companies must hold the line and not work hand in glove with the secret police."
According to Lantos and Smith, the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation in July 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.
Shi has appealed the verdict to the Hunan Higher Peoples 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.
Yahoo did not respond to a request for comment on Lantos and Smiths accusations.
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