Yahoo Settles With Imprisoned Chinese Families

Yahoo settled with the immediate families of two Chinese dissidents imprisoned after the renowned company helped secretly identify them to the Chinese government. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The revelation came a week after lawmakers called Yahoo executives moral “pygmies” for not assisting the immediate families of Chinese prisoners Shi Tao and Wang Xiaoning. Both men were sentenced to 10-year terms for crimes against the state after Yahoo formally submitted their e-mail records to Chinese officials. Their families sued Yahoo in April in U.S. federal court.

In 2002, Wang, an engineer, was forcibly detained by Chinese officials for writing pro-democracy articles on a Yahoo Groups Web site. Shi, a journalist, was arrested in 2004 after he forwarded an e-mail directing him not to cover the Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary to an overseas Chinese democracy Web site.

Yahoo was asked to testify about its cooperation with Chinese officials in the immediate arrests of the dissidents at a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing in February 2006. At the time, Yahoo general counsel Michael Callahan denied that Yahoo had any information about the nature of the case against Shi.

Callahan and Yang were called back to testify last week because the subpoena demand that Yahoo received for information about Shi specifically said the initial investigation was for a state secrets violation, an excessive charge frequently levied against dissidents.

At last week’s hearing, Yang apologized to the families of the prisoners, who were seated directly behind him, but he would not commit to compensating them.