Yahoo creates fund for Chinese 'cyber dissidents'

Blasted for allegedly helping Chinese authorities identify "cyber dissidents," Yahoo said it was launching a new fund to help Chinese people imprisoned for voicing their opinions on internet.


A fund set up by Yahoo to atone for revealing "cyber dissidents" to Chinese officials is aiding people jailed there for human rights views posted on the Internet, its overseer said Wednesday.

Harry Wu, a widely-known Chinese dissident who spent 19 years in labor camps for voicing his opinions, declined to say how much money is in the Yahoo Human Rights Fund he is administering with the help of a board of directors.

"We want to help the Chinese live better," Wu told AFP while discussing the fund. "I'm not sure how much of an impact we will have, but we will try."

The fund is intended to pay for legal aid and family support for dissidents jailed for human rights views expressed on the Internet, especially using Yahoo services, according to Wu.

Money from the fund will also pay to educate people inside and outside China about human rights conditions in that country, Wu said.

"We really focus on human rights violations inside China," said Wu, who now lives in the United States and runs Laogai Research Foundation, named after a Chinese word meaning re-education through labor.

"This includes organ transplants, public execution, Laogai camps, religious freedom, export products and dissidents fighting for their rights."

Yahoo chief executive Jerry Yang announced the fund in November after the California Internet firm reached a settlement with the families of jailed dissidents Shi Tao and Wang Xiaoning to stop a lawsuit.

Business journalist Shi has been imprisoned since 2004 for "divulging state secrets" by posting online a Chinese government order forbidding media organizations from marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising.

Pro-democracy blogger Wang, whose wife had filed the suit in San Francisco last year, was jailed in 2002 after being linked to emails and political essays posted online.

The lawsuit charged Yahoo provided information that enabled Chinese police to identify Shi and Wang.

Yahoo had defended its actions on the grounds that it had to comply with China's laws in order to operate there.

"After meeting with the families, it was clear to me what we had to do to make this right for them, for Yahoo and for the future," Yang said when the settlement was announced.

"We are committed to making sure our actions match our values around the world."

Yang sent US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a letter in February urging her to advocate for the freedom of jailed cyber dissidents during a visit to China later that month.

"I hope you agree that as the world looks ahead to the Olympic Games in Beijing, we have a window of opportunity to advance the cause of freedom," Yang wrote in the letter.

Yahoo came under fire last week after a Chinese version of the website, operated by China-based firm Alibaba, evidently posted pictures of 19 people wanted by the Chinese authorities for protesting in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

"Contrary to media reports, Yahoo Inc. is not displaying images on its web sites of individuals wanted by Chinese authorities in connection with the recent unrest in Tibet," it said in a statement sent to AFP.

Chinese authorities have clamped down firmly on the unrest amid warnings by overseas activist groups of harsh reprisals, including torture, against protesters.

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