Chinese dissident Yahoo helped identify is released after ten years

Wang Xiaoning was imprisoned after distributing pro-democracy writings using Yahoo forums and email accounts

A Chinese dissident who was imprisoned by state authorities for 10 years on evidence provided by Yahoo was released on Friday, according to media reports.

Wang Xiaoning, an engineer, had been imprisoned after distributing pro-democracy writings by using Yahoo forums and email accounts that had been based in China.

He was then arrested in September 2002, and later sentenced to prison a year later. Evidence in his sentencing included information Yahoo helped provide, such as the forum he set up and the Yahoo email accounts he used.

Wang's imprisonment highlighted the challenges foreign Internet firms face when doing business in China, where the government actively tries to stop pro-democracy discussion. In its defense, Yahoo has said the company's China business had to comply with the country's laws and turn over its users' information over to local authorities.

In 2007, Wang's wife, Yu Ling, sued Yahoo in the U.S. for the jailing of her husband, alleging that the company broke certain U.S. laws by supplying the Chinese government with information that led to his arrest. The two parties later settled the case, the terms of which were undisclosed.

Yahoo did not respond immediately on Monday to a request for comment. But the company said in a statement to other media groups that it condemned political suppression, and hopes democratic governments push for the release of individuals imprisoned for expressing their political beliefs. Yahoo's statement, however, did not address Wang specifically by name.

Following Wang's arrest in 2002, Chinese journalist Shi Tao was sentenced in 2005 for leaking state secrets on evidence also supplied by Yahoo. Shi is still serving his 10-year sentence.

Human rights experts have said Chinese authorities have continually tried targeting email accounts as a way to get information and stifle communications from Chinese political activists. In December 2009, a cyberattack originating from China targeted Google and tried to access the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Later In 2011, Google said Chinese authorities were blocking access to Gmail.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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