April 23, 2024

Press Freedom

United States

United States February 14, 2006:

Representative Christopher H. Smith
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington , DC 20515

Dear Representative Smith:

We applaud your summons to the representatives of Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and other leading American companies to appear before the House Sub-committee on Human Rights this coming Wednesday, February 15 th.

For some time, the willingness of big companies to bow their necks to repression in China has been a matter of growing concern to the Overseas Press Club of America. In pursuit of their short-term interests, these enterprises not only make a mockery of free expression, free thinking and a free press. They put lives in danger. For example:

•  According to the verdict handed down against reporter Shi Tao last September, Yahoo! Holdings ( Hong Kong ) Ltd. provided Chinese prosecutors with the evidence needed to link Shi’s e-mail account to a banned document. Shi, a reporter with Dangdai Shang Bao, was convicted of e-mailing a message from Chinese authorities warning journalists of social upheaval that might arise from writing about the 15 th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. With Yahoo’s help, Shi received a ten-year jail term.

•  Since last summer, Microsoft has been censoring the Chinese version of its blog tool, MSN Spaces. Chinese bloggers who attempt to post phrases like “human rights” or “Dalai Lama” see a message on their computer screen reading “This message contains a banned expression, please delete this expression.”

•  Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN’s former Beijing bureau chief and now a research fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, reports that the routers Cisco sells in China have the ability to block not only the main addresses of specific Web sites, but specific sub-pages within a site. Cisco touts this feature in its Chinese promotional literature as evidence of the “granularity” of its filtering capability.

Google’s acknowledgement in January that it will censor search results on its Chinese servers for such controversial words as “democracy” and “ Tibet ” is only one more example of craven behavior by organizations that not too long ago were considered leaders in the march to a better age of self-organizing networks. Google’s corporate motto is “Don’t be evil,” but it’s hard to think of another way to characterize capitulation to despotism.

Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft contend that they are obliged to abide by local laws. By that logic, they must become the collaborators of every repressive government that gives them license to operate. We think that you have put the question better, Representative Smith. We do not ask American companies to go abroad to promote democracy. We only ask that they not become partners in human rights abuse.


Very truly yours,
Kevin McDermott
Larry Martz
Norman A. Schorr
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee



Mr. Mark Chandler

Vice President and General Counsel

Cisco Systems Inc.

170 West Tasman Drive

San Jose , CA 95134

Fax: (408) 526-4100


Mr. Jack Krumholtz

Director of Government Affairs

Microsoft Corporation

One Microsoft Way

Redmond , WA 98052

Fax: (425) 936-7329


Mr. Michael Callahan

General Counsel

Yahoo! Inc.

701 First Avenue

Sunnyvale , CA 94089

Fax: (408) 349-3301


Mr. Elliot Schrage

Vice President, Communications and Corporate Affairs

Google Inc.

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway

Mountain View , CA 94043

Fax: (650) 618-1499


H.E. Hu Jintao


Office of the President


Beijing 100017

People’s Republic of China

Fax: ( 512-5810


Clark T. Randt, Jr.

U.S. Ambassador to China

Embassy of the United States of America

No. 3 Xiu Shui Bei Jie

100600 Beijing


Fax: ( 532-6929


Wen Jiabao

State Council

Office of the Premier


Beijing 100077

People’s Republic of China

Fax: ( 512-5810

Yang Jiechi

Ambassador of China to the U.S.A.

Embassy of the People’s Republic of China

2300 Connecticut Avenue, NW

Washington , DC 20008

Fax: (202) 588-0032


Ambassador Wang Guangya

Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China

to the United Nations

350 East 35th Street

New York , NY 10016

Fax: (212) 634-7626