Update: Yahoo implicated in Chinese writer's imprisonment

This is the second time in three months Yahoo has been implicated in the conviction of a political writer in China

Yahoo's Hong Kong subsidiary provided information to Chinese authorities that led to the imprisonment of writer Wang Xiaoning on charges of incitement to subvert state power, a human rights group said.

Wang was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in September 2003, due in part to writings distributed over the Internet. The case just recently came to light, according to Human Rights in China (HRIC), a New York-based group.

Among the evidence cited in the judgement against Wang is information from Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. stating that Wang’s “aaabbbccc“ Yahoo Group was set up using the mainland China-based email address bxoguh@yahoo.com.cn, HRIC said.

The Hong Kong subsidiary also confirmed that the email address ahgq@yahoo.com.cn, through which Wang sent messages to the Group, was a mainland China-based account, according to HRIC.

Yahoo, in a statement, said it was unaware of the case. "We condemn punishment of any activity internationally recognized as free expression, whether that punishment takes place in China or anywhere else in the world," Yahoo said in its statement.

"While we absolutely believe companies have a responsibility to identify appropriate practices in each market in which they do business, we also think there is a vital role for government-to-government discussion of the larger issues involved."

The judgment, from the Beijing Municipal First Intermediary People’s Court, did not indicate whether Yahoo Holdings or Yahoo China specifically revealed Wang's identity to Chinese authorities, HRIC said. Yahoo China has been operated by Alibaba.com since last year, but was not at the time Wang was arrested or sentenced.

This is the second time in three months that Yahoo has been implicated in the conviction of a political writer in China. In February, Reporters Without Borders, a journalism watchdog group based in Paris, said Yahoo provided information about an e-mail address used by Li Zhi, a political activist and former government official convicted and sentenced to eight years. Police may have identified Li by using the e-mail address to find his IP address and then location, RSF said.

China regularly prosecutes political activists who distribute anti-government material via e-mail or on Web sites.

(Grant Gross in Washington, DC contributed to this report.)

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