Yahoo! lawsuit (re China)

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C русской версией описания этого дела можно ознакомиться здесь.


In April 2007 Wang Xiaoning and Wang’s wife, Yu Ling, filed a lawsuit (in US federal court in California) against Yahoo! and its Chinese subsidiariesunder the Alien Tort Claims Act, Torture Victim Protection Act and California state law.  In June 2007 journalist Shi Tao and a number of unnamed plaintiffs joined the lawsuit.  Wang and Shi had each been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in China on respective charges of incitement to subvert state power and of illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities.  Wang was found guilty on the basis of essays advocating democratic reform and multi-party democracy in China that he distributed via email and through Yahoo!  Shi was convicted on the basis of an email he sent from his Yahoo! account to an internet forum which contained his comments on a Chinese Government circular prepared in advance of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising outlining restrictions on the media.  


The plaintiffs accused Yahoo! of giving information about their online activities to Chinese law enforcement, which led to their detention.  The lawsuit alleges that by providing user identification information to the Chinese authorities, Yahoo! knowingly and willfully aided and abetted the commission of torture and other human rights abuses that caused the plaintiffs severe physical and mental pain and suffering.  The plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint alleged that Wang and Shi “have been and are being subjected to grave violations of some of the most universally recognized standards of international law, including prohibitions against torture…and forced labor, for exercising their rights of freedom of speech, association, and assembly, at the hands of [Yahoo!] through Chinese officials acting under color of law in the People’s Republic of China.” 


On 27 August 2007, Yahoo! moved to dismiss the complaint arguing that the case presents “nonjusticiable” questions (questions not appropriate for resolution by a US court) because the case involves “acts of state” and political questions, and because ruling on them would breach standards of international comity.  (More information on these three doctrines is available here.)  On 31 October 2007, the court granted in part plaintiffs’ motion for initial and jurisdictional discovery, delaying its decision on Yahoo!’s motion to dismiss until this discovery had been conducted.  On 13 November 2007, following the testimony of Yahoo!’s CEO before Congress, the parties agreed to a private settlement and issued a joint stipulation of dismissal in which Yahoo! agreed to bear the plaintiffs’ legal costs and establish a fund "to provide humanitarian and legal aid to dissidents who have been imprisoned for expressing their views online."  The exact terms of the settlement are confidential. 

In late February 2008 a new lawsuit was filed against Yahoo! by Chinese dissidents in US federal court in California based on allegations similar to those in the lawsuit which was settled in November 2007.

On 1 February 2012 a Yahoo! shareholder and a Chinese activist filed a lawsuit in Delaware Chancery Court against Yahoo! seeking evidence from the company regarding the establishment and operation of the Yahoo! Human Rights Fund.  This Fund was to be established pursuant to the November 2007 settlement of the lawsuit described above.  The plaintiffs allege that the individual selected by Yahoo! to administer the Fund misappropriated Fund assets for his personal use.

- "Milberg LLP and Human Rights Activist File Suit Against Yahoo! Questioning Operation of the Yahoo! Human Rights Fund", Xenia Kobylarz, Milberg LLP, 6 Feb 2012
- "Yahoo sued again by Chinese dissidents", Dan Nystedt, Computerworld, 29 Feb 2008
- “Yahoo Settles With Chinese Families”, Catherine Rampell, Washington Post, 14 Nov 2007

- [FR] “Reporters sans frontiers soulagee par l’accord entre Yahoo! et les familles de Shi Tao et Wang Xiaoning”Reporters sans Frontières, 14 nov 2007

- “Yahoo apologizes for action on Chinese dissident journalist” AFX News, 4 Nov 2007

- “Yahoo plea over China rights case”, BBC News, 28 Aug 2007

- “Jailed Chinese Reporter Joins Yahoo Suit”, Dikky Sinn, Washington Post, 11 Jun 2007

- “Chinese Political Prisoner Sues in U.S. Court, Saying Yahoo Helped Identify Dissidents”, Miguel Helft, New York Times, 19 Apr 2007


- World Organization for Human Rights (plaintiffs’ counsel): Corporate Accountability (includes links to legal documents filed in US case)

- Human Rights in China: Case Highlight – Shi Tao and Yahoo

- Human Rights in China: Yahoo! Cited in Decision Sentencing Internet Dissident Wang Xiaoning to 10 Years, 27 Apr 2006

- [PDF] Xiaoning v. Yahoo - Second Amended Complaint, 30 Jul 2007

- Xiaoning v. Yahoo! Inc, et al. – Defendant Yahoo! Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint, 27 Aug 2007

- Justia: Xiaoning et al v. Yahoo! Inc, et al [index, with links, of all legal filings in case]

- [PDF] Chinese Judgment Against Shi Tao, 27 Apr 2005 (Chinese language only)

- [PDF] Chinese Judgment Against Wang Xiaoning, 12 Sep 2003 (Chinese language only)

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5 December 2008

[PDF] Human Rights Translated: A Business Reference Guide

Author: OHCHR, IBLF, UN Global Compact & Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Faculty of Law, Monash University [Australia]

Readers are guided through each of the rights contained in the UN treaties...and given a description of what each right means in general terms and how it may be relevant to a company’s activities...To bring reality to the report, each description of a right is illustrated by one or more short case studies demonstrating how the right can be relevant to business. The companies profiled have been given a chance to comment...For each right in the report the authors offer suggested practical actions for company managers’ consideration...[refers to Freeport McMoRan, Freeport Indonesia (part of Freeport-McMoRan), Hamersley Iron (part of Rio Tinto), Coca-Cola, Bebidas y Alimentos, Panamerican Beverages, James Hardie, BP, TeGenero, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Titan (now L-3 Titan), CACI, Unocal (part of Chevron), GSL Australia (part of Group 4 Securicor), Aker Kværner, Bosasa, Newmont, British American Tobacco, UBS, Credit Suisse, AOL (part of Time Warner), Victorian Clinical Genetics Service, Yahoo! Hong Kong,, HP (Hewlett-Packard), TPG, British Airways, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, Shell, Bayer CropScience, Emergent Genetics (part of Monsanto), Monsanto, Bayer, Singer, Ben & Jerry’s (part of Unilever), Unilever Bestfoods, Starbucks, Elf Aquitaine (now part of Total), Cracker Barrel (part of CBRL Group), Calvert Group, Alcoa, Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation (part of Toyota), Tae Kwang Vina, Nike, Pentland Group, Barclays, Novartis, BHP Billiton, Mod-Style, Panarub, Adidas, Enron, Levi Strauss, Walt Disney, Marriott, Malaysia Airlines, IBM, Ernst & Young, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Johnson & Johnson, Mattel, Guatemala Nickel Company, PT Lapindo Brantas, Lafayette Philippines (part of Lafayette Mining), Aguas del Tunari, Abengoa, Union Carbide (part of Dow Chemical), McDonald's, IKEA, RiceTec]

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12 November 2008

Yahoo-Sponsored Chinese Human Rights Museum Opens in Washington

Author: Geoffrey A. Fowler, China Journal Blog, Wall Street Journal

On Wednesday, the Laogai Museum will open on M Street in Washington, D.C. Run by expatriate Chinese dissident Harry Wu, the museum documents forced labor camps called laogai through photographs, government papers and prisoner uniforms.…The museum is backed by a noteworthy benefactor: Internet giant Yahoo Inc. Following its public apology last year for aiding in the arrest of Chinese journalist Shi Tao, Yahoo set up a human rights fund to “provide humanitarian and legal support to political dissidents who have been imprisoned for expressing their views online.” The museum is one of the fund’s first public projects.

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28 October 2008

[PDF] Business & Human Rights Resource Centre launches world’s first online portal profiling human rights lawsuits against companies

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Today the non-profit Business & Human Rights Resource Centre launches a free online portal – the first to bring together and demystify lawsuits from across the world alleging human rights abuses by companies. The portal summarises in non-legal language over 35 cases and the positions of each side, with more cases to be added soon. It also presents special commentaries by experts...Companies in profiled lawsuits include: AngloGold Ashanti, Barclays, BHP Billiton, Biwater, Blackwater, BP, Cambior, Cape PLC, Chevron/Texaco, Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Daimler, Deutsche Bank, Dow/Union Carbide, Drummond, DynCorp, ExxonMobil, Firestone, Ford, Freeport-McMoRan, IBM, Mitsubishi, Nike, Occidental, Rio Tinto, Severstal, Shell, Standard Chartered, Talisman, Trafigura, Total, UBS, Wal-Mart, Yahoo!

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24 March 2008

Does Yahoo really want a political profile in China?

Author: John Letzing, MarketWatch

In the wake of damaging lawsuits charging Yahoo Inc. with complicity in the jailing and torture of Chinese dissidents, the company is seeking to make amends with a "human-rights fund" dedicated to providing victims of government censorship with legal and other assistance. Human-rights groups that once criticized Yahoo for complying with Chinese authorities' efforts to clamp down on political discourse are now praising its new, public stance on the issue...In addition, Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang indicated …to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that bolder moves may be in store. Yang wrote that he looks forward to "seizing the opportunity presented by the Olympics to redouble our efforts in securing the release of political dissidents." [also refers to Microsoft]

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29 February 2008

Yahoo sued again by Chinese dissidents

Author: Dan Nystedt, Computerworld

The current lawsuit, filed by plaintiffs Li Zhi, Zheng Cunzhu and Guo Quan in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, seeks damages for their suffering at the hands of Chinese officials after Yahoo and Yahoo Hong Kong allegedly provided access to e-mails, e-mail records, user identification information and other data to authorities in China...Yahoo did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Specifically, Li is suing over his torture and imprisonment by Chinese officials after his work for the China Democracy Party — a banned political group — was revealed in information Yahoo provided officials about his Internet activity...Zheng is now allegedly unable to return to China because he fears prosecution, according to the lawsuit...Guo lost his job as an associate professor at Nanjing Normal University after his Internet identity was revealed to Chinese authorities by Yahoo, the lawsuit alleged...The group has filed suit in the U.S. under the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789.

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21 February 2008

Yahoo Asks US Gov't to Help Dissidents

Author: Dibya Sarkar, Associated Press

Yahoo Inc. Chief Executive Jerry Yang wants U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to help get two Chinese journalists [Shi Tao, Wang Xiaoning] out of prison — where they've been since Yahoo complied with Chinese investigators. Yang's request, faxed to Rice on Thursday morning, is the company's latest effort to repair its reputation after U.S. lawmakers and human rights advocates accused it of collaborating with an oppressive regime. Yahoo also helped establish a human rights fund to provide humanitarian and legal aid to dissidents who have been imprisoned for expressing their views online.

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Author: Reporters sans frontières

Reporters sans frontières est satisfaite de l’issue du règlement à l’amiable des poursuites engagées contre l’entreprise américaine Yahoo ! par les familles de deux internautes chinois, Shi Tao et Wang Xiaoning... "...Mais cet accord ne doit pas clore le débat sur l’implication que peuvent avoir des entreprises telles que Yahoo ! dans la divulgation des données personnelles aux autorités locales du pays , notamment en Chine...", a déclaré l’organisation.

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Author: BBC Mundo

El portal de Internet Yahoo alcanzó un acuerdo en el caso de la demanda interpuesta en su contra por diversos disidentes chinos por supuesta complicidad en la represión de las autoridades chinas. Hasta el momento no se han dado detalles del acuerdo...Los demandantes alegaron que Yahoo proporcionó información al gobierno chino que fue utilizada para perseguir a varios disidentes. Yahoo...insiste en que debe cumplir con las leyes de los países donde opera...[también se refiere a Google y Microsoft]

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Author: AP, dans Le Nouvel Observateur [France]

Yahoo est parvenu mardi à un accord à l'amiable avec deux journalistes chinois qui poursuivaient le géant américain de l'Internet pour avoir transmis aux autorités chinoises des informations sur leurs activités en ligne, ce qui avait conduit à leur emprisonnement. Les termes du règlement n'ont pas été révélés.

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13 November 2007

Yahoo Settles Case Amid Pressure from Congress and Mounting Legal Challenges [USA]

Author: World Organization for Human Rights USA

...Yahoo [has] agreed to settle the lawsuit filed against it by Human Rights USA. The lawsuit...sought to hold Yahoo accountable for its complicity in major human rights abuses in China. Yahoo had handed over the identifying internet user information of well-known Chinese journalist Shi Tao, and pro-democracy writer Wang Xiaoning, to Chinese authorities, who sought to punish the two men for having done nothing more than expressed their free speech rights...

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