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9 Jul 2023

Eva Fu, The Epoch Times

USA: Appeals Court rules that Lawsuit accusing Cisco of enabling chinese regime's persecution of Falun Gong can move forward

"US Appeals Court Revives Lawsuit Accusing Cisco of Aiding Beijing in Persecuting Falun Gong", 9 July 2023

A lawsuit that accuses California-based tech giant Cisco of facilitating the Chinese regime’s violent persecution of Falun Gong can move forward to trial, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled on July 7.

Adherents of Falun Gong, a faith group that’s been heavily persecuted in China since 1999, filed a lawsuit in 2011 against Cisco along with its two former executives, longtime CEO John Chambers and Fredy Cheung, Cisco’s then-vice president for greater China. The firm, the lawsuit alleges, supplied technology to help China’s communist officials build a vast surveillance network to identify and track Falun Gong practitioners, and facilitate their subsequent arrest and torture.

Reversing a 2014 lower district court decision to dismiss the case, the federal appellate court found the plaintiffs’ allegations sufficient for the case to proceed.

“We conclude that Plaintiffs’ allegations, accepted as true, are sufficient to state a plausible claim that Cisco provided essential technical assistance to the ‘douzheng’ of Falun Gong with awareness that the international law violations of torture, arbitrary detention, disappearance, and extrajudicial killing were substantially likely to take place,” ​​U.S. Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon wrote ...

Ms. Berzon said that the company’s actions, many of which took place on U.S. soil, constitute “aiding and abetting” the Chinese regime’s abuses.

Terri Marsh, executive director of the Human Rights Law Foundation and a chief attorney for the plaintiffs, touted the development as a positive step toward curbing the persecution campaign.

The plaintiffs, citing Cisco’s marketing materials found on Chinese websites and elsewhere, allege that Cisco had acted as more than an unwitting commercial actor selling widgets to China. In its eagerness to win over the multibillion-dollar Chinese technology market, the complaint alleges, the company marketed itself to target dissidents and became a facilitator of the regime’s violent suppression of faith, designing and developing a comprehensive apparatus with U.S. technologies and talent in exchange for market access.

The system the plaintiffs refer to is “Golden Shield,” the Chinese security apparatus’s data-driven surveillance platform accessible nationwide in China. Cisco, they said, had designed, crafted, and given critical assistance in implementing and subsequently fine-tuning the Golden Shield project at a time when the regime was incapable of developing one on its own.

In addition to customized software, Cisco also provided testing and ongoing “skill training” and “technical training” to Chinese agents tasked with persecuting Falun Gong so that they could master the use of the technology, according to the plaintiffs.

The resulting product was a surveillance system that could monitor Falun Gong adherents’ internet activities in real time, allowing the regime to identify, round up, and torture members of the religious group and coerce them into renouncing their faith. The system also builds detailed and constantly updated profiles of suspected and known Falun Gong adherents that Chinese security officers can retrieve anywhere in the country, with information including their location, family members, and contacts, the plaintiffs allege.

All 13 plaintiffs, including a U.S. citizen, said they were identified via Golden Shield technology as participants of Falun Gong-related activities online and suffered detention for months to years at a time, during which they were subjected to torture.

“The authorities have allegedly used information stored in the Golden Shield system as tools to exert mental pressure during their torture sessions, she noted.

Cisco representatives didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.