Thursday, November 15, 2007

Doing business in a country that jails millions of dissidents

Yahoo, Cisco Systems, Microsoft
By Judi McLeod Thursday, November 15, 2007

Canada Free Press: American companies assisting Chinese government oppression can always fall back on corporate PR to downplay their roles.

When the news hit that Yahoo was settling a legal dispute with the families of two Chinese dissidents, columnists began trying to defend Yahoo by pointing out that the company isn’t the only Judas in the corporate crowd trucking with Communist China.

These columnists wanted to point out that Cisco Systems Inc. helps sends thousands of Chinese dissidents to prison by selling sophisticated Internet surveillance technology to the Peoples’ Republic of China.

Cisco is hardly alone in doing business in a Communist county that employs a 30,000-member strong Internet police force to deal with anyone pegged in kangaroo courts as a “dissident”.

Microsoft, whose charitable works with the United Nations is often lauded by the mainstream media, has actually helped the Internet cops catch Internet users, who are sent away to prison.

Google built a special search engine, Chinese style so that the ultra sensitive Chinese government can filter out things they don’t want floating around in hallowed Oriental cyberspace.

Companies working with the Chinese government can always send out media communiqu├ęs patting themselves on the back for claiming that they are on the side of democracy by virtue of lending their talent to help build China’s Internet.

Yahoo’s recent publicity from paying the families of a Chinese journalist and a dissident who were jailed after the company gave their identities to the Chinese police, distorts the main issue.

Millions of dissidents--including farmers, students and Christians--languish in Chinese-style gulags known as laogai, and because the Chinese government has a relative field day both placing and keeping them there, their numbers are skyrocketing.

The lawsuit against Yahoo was brought by Yu Ling, the wife of jailed Chinese dissident Wang Xiaonin Zion and by Gao Qinsheng, the mother of Chinese journalist Shi Tao. Both men were sentenced to 10 years in a Chinese prison.

Yahoo is not saying how much the women were paid in the lawsuit, but even millions won’t make 10 years in a Chinese prison go any faster for Wang Xiaonin and Shi Tao.

Both men were not only jailed--they were tortured, a practice that is rampant in China.

In fact, the routine torturing of prisoners is one of the reasons why China has one of the world’s worst records on Human Rights.

Ordinary people from all walks of life who get caught writing anti-government essays on the Internet, the followers of Falun Gong and Christians are treated the same in Chinese-style gulags.

While their families will be financially looked after on the outside, Wang Zion and Shi Tao can only hope the stories they heard about organs being removed from live prisoners are exaggerated.

The words of Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, in announcing the settlement sound noble: “It was clear to me what we had to do to make this right for them, for Yahoo and for the future. Yahoo was founded on the idea that the free exchange of information can change how people lead their lives, conduct their business and interact with their governments. We are committed to making sure our actions match our values.”

But the words of Jerry Yang, carried by the Western media will never be heard by the millions in China’s prisons.

The only words that matter to them would be, “You are free to go, to return home to your waiting families.” Words that never come to those lost and forgotten by the outside world.

Dissidents in China rely more on surviving each day than they do on empty Public Relations.

Those dissidents say that they still face danger in using the Internet to spread their message, the recent pledge by Yahoo to protect their right to confidentiality notwithstanding.

“Yesterday dissidents wanting to share their thoughts with others in China said that the settlement would not reduce the dangers they faced. (Timesonline, Nov. 15, 2007). “One man, who has spent most of the past 18 years in jail, said that Chinese wanting to exercise freedom of expression had no choice but to use the internet and thus expose their writings to China’s cyberspace police.

He said: “The point is, the authorities know exactly what is being said and being written by people with dissenting views. They know all these people. The only question is whether they want to pick someone up and jail them.”

Not only western multinationals continue to do big business with China, but also so do Western governments like Canada and the United States.

Where is the incentive for the Communist regime in China to improve its appalling record on human rights when they know that Western corporations and governments rely on doing brisk business with them?

With one Chinese export after another being found dangerous to consumers, exports arriving daily, make it to the store shelves.

As for the big media question game asking which American company has created the greater evil, Yahoo, or Microsoft et al?

All of them, that’s who. Profiting from a country that jails--and tortures--millions of dissidents puts them in the same category of evil.

Posted 11/15 at 07:23 AM Email (Permalink) OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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