CONGRESSMAN FRANK WOLF SLAMS YAHOO
Interesting remarks from the House floor. Definitely well spoken and hard to disagree with. This is an old issue now, but Yahoo should still be ashamed for this:
YAHOO SHOULD BE ASHAMED -- HON. FRANK R. WOLF
(Extensions of Remarks - October 18, 2005)
HON. FRANK R. WOLF OF VIRGINIA
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Mr. WOLF. Mr. Speaker, I recall with great irony the heated annual debates in Congress surrounding Most Favored Nation trade status and ultimately Permanent Normal Trade Relations for China. The coalition that battled granting China this privilege faced an almost certain perennial loss. Even so, it served as a valuable forum in which to highlight just what kind of a country we are dealing with in China. The list of egregious actions laid at the feet of the communist government of the People's Republic of China is long and spans decades--human rights abuses, religious persecution including torture and imprisonment, slave labor practices, forced sterilization, espionage operations against U.S. businesses, software piracy and
intellectual property theft, military spying. At the time many argued with tremendous passion, business interests foremost among them, that trade with China would change China, not the other way around.
It strikes me that those may have been hollow promises--that little has changed in China. Rather it appears that some American companies are increasingly honoring repressive Chinese laws so that they might keep their seat at the table and with it the promise of great profit.
Shi Tao, a freelance journalist for Internet publications, was recently sentenced in China, to 10 years in prison for "leaking state secrets abroad."
Tao was arrested in November 2004 after Yahoo, an American company, cooperated with Chinese government authorities to grant them access to Tao's personal e-mail account. Tao simply e-mailed portions of a directive issued by China's Propaganda Department that instructed the Chinese media as to how to cover the 15th anniversary of the military crackdown in Tiananmen Square.
Incidentally, even today it is still impermissible to use the term "4 June," the date of the brutal government crackdown on pro-democracy activists, student leaders and workers in Tiananmen Square, in the press or online.
Yahoo justified their actions by claiming that to do business in China, they had to follow Chinese laws--a morally bankrupt argument which excuses doing business with the worst actors on the world scene, under the guise of respect for the law. But even if one subscribed to that argument, it is noteworthy that the information that Yahoo turned over to government authorities was stored in Hong Kong, outside of the jurisdiction of the mainland police.
Yahoo's chairman and chief executive officer Terry Semel, after vigorously defending his company's decision, is reported to have said, "on a personal level, I wince." I would say to Mr. Semel, I too wince. And I would venture to guess that Mr. Tao's family winced when police grabbed him on a street, searched his house and confiscated his computer and other items, thus launching the ordeal that culminated his eventual prosecution and imprisonment.
During the dark days of the Cold War the vast majority of those living behind the Iron Curtain saw America as a friend--we represented their hopes and aspirations. But today in China some are complicity with the oppressors.
Mr. Semel and the company he leads is a beneficiary, as we all are, of this great experiment in self-governance, free enterprise and individual liberty that we call America. When faced with a choice between the bottom line, and betraying the very tenets that underpin this nation, Yahoo chose profit. They should be ashamed.