Tuesday, February 14, 2006

GOTB Action #4: Chinese internet censorship

This year's Get on the Bus demonstration at the Chinese consulate will focus on the issue of internet censorship and US companies' complicity in denying Chinese freedom of expression. Amnesty International USA issued a press release on the subject today in advance of tomorrow's Congressional hearings on the subject. Some of the companies under scrutiny include Google, Yahoo!, Cisco Systems and Microsoft.

To learn more about the issue, go to the AIUSA Business & Human Rights web page: http://www.amnestyusa.org/business/censorship.html

Journalists Without Borders just released information about 2 Chinese "cyberdissidents" who were prosecuted by the Chinese government with the help of Yahoo! To read more, see http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16402

Send Yahoo! a letter asking them to use their influence to release Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist. Shi Tao is serving a ten-year prison sentence in China for sending an email to the US. He was accused of “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities” by using his Yahoo! email account. Yahoo! provided account-holder information on him leading to his sentencing. You can also send the Chinese government a letter requesting his release and asking China to respect its citizens' human rights. To take these actions, go to http://www.amnestyusa.org/business/actions.do

Press Release
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Amnesty International Calls on U.S. High-Tech Companies to Cease Internet Censorship
(Washington, DC)

On the eve of an important Congressional hearing to evaluate the role of U.S. companies in Chinese state repression of free expression, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) calls on all U.S. companies in the technology sector to take immediate steps to ensure that they stop any actions that could undermine human rights. In particular, U.S. companies should work together to bring an end to restrictions on freedom of expression and information on the Internet. Amnesty International welcomes the hearing and urges lawmakers to better regulate the actions of U.S. companies overseas.

“The high-tech sector is still dominated worldwide by U.S. companies,” said Mila Rosenthal, Director of AIUSA’s Business and Human Rights Program. “Those companies should be spreading U.S. values around the world, like free speech and the right to peaceful political expression, instead of helping the Chinese government silence and squash its internal critics. Patrick Henry said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ If he were sending that message today in China from his Yahoo! e-mail account, he could be locked up for 10 years for political subversion.”

“The Chinese government is a noted human rights abuser, and U.S. high-tech companies are facilitating Chinese repression, including the imprisonment of political dissidents,” said T. Kumar, AIUSA Advocacy Director for Asia & the Pacific. “We will work with Congress to pass legislation to ensure that this aiding and abetting is stopped.”Amy O’Meara, of AIUSA’s Business and Human Rights Program, and T. Kumar will attend tomorrow’s hearing. Both are available for interviews. To schedule one, please contact Jason Disterhoft at 202-544-0200 x312 (o) or617-784-6181 (c).

AIUSA’s presence at the hearing continues its work on U.S. high-tech companies’ human rights responsibilities in China. On February 1, T. Kumar testified at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus Members’ Briefing on human rights and the Internet in China. The same day, AIUSA mobilized the public by launching an online action urging Yahoo! to use its influence to secure the release of journalist Shi Tao. Unsurprisingly, China has been known to block access to Amnesty International’s Web site. As Amnesty International and other organizations have reported, all of the companies testifying tomorrow have been implicated in Chinese censorship. Cisco has provided technology used to censor and control the use of the Internet in China. Microsoft has removed Chinese blogs that mentioned democracy and other forbidden words and concepts. Google has recently moved its servers behind China’s firewall to let the government censors limit Chinese searches. Yahoo! has turned over information to the Chinese government that identified peaceful political dissidents, who are now serving long prison terms.

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