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Advocates Sue Yahoo In Chinese Torture Case

In a suit against Yahoo, the wife of a Chinese pro-democracy writer says the Internet giant offered data that helped authorities identify and arrest her husband and others.
In a suit against Yahoo, the wife of a Chinese pro-democracy writer says the Internet giant offered data that helped authorities identify and arrest her husband and others. (By Ng Han Guan -- Associated Press)

Wang and his wife are the only plaintiffs named in the suit, though others may be added later. While offering few specifics, the suit claims Yahoo may have turned over information on as many as 60 people who were subsequently arrested for pro-democracy activism. Among the cases that have come to light are those of writers Shi Tao, Li Zhi and Jiang Lijun.

Shi, a business journalist, was arrested in 2004 after he used his Yahoo e-mail account to distribute a Communist Party document to an overseas pro-democracy Web site. Li, from southwestern China, was sentenced to prison in 2003 after he posted comments on the Internet criticizing official corruption. Jiang, a freelance writer, was detained in 2002 and sent to prison in 2003 after he published an open letter to the party calling for democratic reform.

Wang, born in the rust-belt capital of Shenyang in China's northeast, was an engineer who moonlighted as a political commentator, churning out dozens of newsletters and journals over more than 15 years. "Outwardly democratic but inwardly despotic" was how Wang described China's government in one essay.

The police raided his home Sept. 1, 2002, confiscating files, notes, an address book and two personal computers, according to Wang's wife, Yu. Wang was ultimately convicted of "incitement to subvert state power."

Yu said visits with her husband are limited to one 30-minute session a month. In the earliest visits, before he was sentenced and transferred to prison, she could tell he had been abused, she said.

"They beat him, they kicked him, to get his confession, to tell them more, not just about himself but others in his group," she said.

In China, Yu said, news organizations don't dare tell his story. And no lawyer there would take her case. With her husband's blessing, she traveled to the United States in search of justice. "Even when it is extremely difficult, you shall still do it for me," Wang wrote to her in a letter last year.

Traveling to the United States, filing suit against a big company and speaking out against her government is risky for Yu, 55, whose eyes show that she's not well rested and whose frame seems to indicate that she doesn't eat much. Although she does not think she has committed a crime by speaking out, "you never know in China whether they have a reason or not to take you away."

Yu said she wouldn't be surprised to find police waiting for her when she returns to China.

Diaz reported from Washington.


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