Skip to content Skip to navigation

Open Letter to President Clinton

September 9, 2005



Dear President Clinton:

We, the undersigned organizations, urge you, as the keynote speaker of the 2005 China Internet Summit at West Lake in Hangzhou, China, to call for the release of Shi Tao, a journalist and Internet activist serving a 10-year sentence for divulging state secrets. This Summit provides a prime opportunity to address the controversy over the role of U.S. Internet companies operating in China. We would like you to talk directly with Jerry Yang, cofounder of Yahoo!, who will be a speaker at this event, about the role that Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. played in providing the Chinese authorities with information that was used to convict Shi Tao.

Shi Tao, a journalist at the Contemporary Business News and an online essayist, was detained shortly after he sent an e-mail to an overseas Web site regarding instructions issued by the Central Propaganda Department on maintaining social stability on the 15th anniversary of the June 4th crackdown. On April 27, 2005, Shi was convicted of “illegally providing state secrets abroad,” and sentenced to ten years in prison; his appeal was denied on June 2, 2005. The April 27 judgment of the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court in Hunan states that Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. provided the Chinese investigating organs with detailed information linking Shi’s personal e-mail account and the message at issue to the IP address and physical location of his computer.

Shi’s conviction is part of an alarming trend on the part of the PRC government of clamping down on the legitimate activities of journalists who report on failings in China’s system. Yahoo provided evidence that contributed to Shi’s arrest and conviction for activities that did not threaten China’s national security, but merely represented the exercise of his right to free expression and to criticize the government, as protected by China’s own constitution.
In the spirit of this year’s China Internet Summit theme of “Connecting China and the World,” we urge you to underscore the international human rights obligations of both states and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. Specifically, we urge you to take this opportunity to highlight the following issues of concern to the business community and to the Chinese government:

  • Support the unconditional release of Shi Tao, whose conviction stems from his exercise of his right to freedom of expression, and a review of cases of other journalists convicted on charges stemming from the discharge of their professional duties;
  • Encourage foreign businesses to implement the UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights, under which transnational corporations must refrain from any activity that supports or encourages States to abuse human rights;
  • Call on the PRC government to implement the WSIS Declaration of Principles that it has adopted. These Principles seek to build a “people-centered, inclusive, and development-oriented Information Society” that respects the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which “includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information.”

As you understand so well, these are challenging times for human rights work, especially in the context of China. We urge you to take advantage of this important opportunity to address these challenges and to exercise clear corporate and international leadership.

Sincerely,

Sharon Hom
Executive Director
Human Rights in China
Robert Ménard
Secretary General
Reporters Without Borders

Explore Topics

709 Crackdown Access to Information Access to Justice Administrative Detention All about law Arbitrary Detention
Asset Transparency Bilateral Dialogue Black Jail Book Review Business And Human Rights Censorship
Charter 08 Children Chinese Law Circumvention technology Citizen Activism Citizen Journalists
Citizen Participation Civil Society Commentary Communist Party Of China Constitution Consumer Safety
Contending views Corruption Counterterrorism Courageous Voices Cultural Revolution Culture Matters
Current affairs Cyber Security Daily Challenges Democratic And Political Reform Demolition And Relocation  Dissidents
Education Elections Enforced Disappearance Environment Ethnic Minorities EU-China
Family Planning Farmers Freedom of Association Freedom of Expression Freedom of Press Freedom of Religion
Government Accountability Government regulation Government transparency Hong Kong House Arrest HRIC Translation
Hukou Human Rights Council Human rights developments Illegal Search And Detention Inciting Subversion Of State Power Information Control 
Information technology Information, Communications, Technology (ICT) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) International Human Rights International perspective International Relations
Internet Internet Governance JIansanjiang lawyers' rights defense Judicial Reform June Fourth Kidnapping
Labor Camps Labor Rights Land, Property, Housing Lawyer's rights Lawyers Legal System
Letters from the Mainland Major Event (Environment, Food Safety, Accident, etc.) Mao Zedong Microblogs (Weibo) National People's Congress (NPC) New Citizens Movement
Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Olympics One country, two systems Online Activism Open Government Information Personal stories
Police Brutality Political commentary Political Prisoner Politics Prisoner Of Conscience Probing history
Propaganda Protests And Petitions Public Appeal Public Security Racial Discrimination Reeducation-Through-Labor
Rights Defenders Rights Defense Rule Of Law Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Special Topic State compensation
State Secrets State Security Subversion Of State Power Surveillance Technology Thoughts/Theories
Tiananmen Mothers Tibet Torture Typical cases United Nations US-China 
Uyghurs, Uighurs Vulnerable Groups Women Youth Youth Perspective