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According to Reporters Without Borders, Yahoo and its local partner, Alibaba, helped the Chinese government nail Li Zhi.

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 organization said.

Link here along with the actual transcript of the verdict in Chinese (if you’re fluent, feel free to comment on this blog).

Li Zhi is the man who got “eight years in jail for trying to query and join a democracy group from his home in Sichuan.” What an evil man! 

However, another source, Roland Soong, says the whole thing with Li Zhi is overblown:

Roland Soong, a highly regarded translator and media researcher who is the author of the EastSouthWestNorth blog, did not dispute reports that Yahoo provided Chinese police with evidence used to build a case against Li. However, he said Yahoo’s role in the case has been overblown, and questioned why the case has attracted so much attention now, nearly two years after the statement was written by Li’s lawyers.

Link here.

It is unclear whether or not Roland he has seen the transcript of the verdict (he’s speaking about the appeal).  Since I don’t speak or write Chinese, it’s difficult to go off of more than just media reports. 

Needless to say, turning over personal information that directly supports a government’s reprehensible human rights violations is difficult to excuse.  Internet companies say “we’re just obeying the laws of the land”. We’ve heard that before, but I won’t bother to push hard analogies out of respect to Godwin’s Law.   If turning over the email records of some poor sod who spoke his mind ends him up dead or in prison for years, you just can’t do it. 

Remember, Zhao Yan faces 10 years in prison for “endangering state secrets” (what those state secrets are, no one knows).  Li Zhi got eight years in prison for applying for membership to a banned political party.  Shi Toa got 10 years for a similarly minor violation. 

Of course, I would be jailed for this blog entry in China.

Alex Eckelberry
(Hat tip to Fergdawg)