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House Committee on International Relations, “The Internet in China: A Tool for Freedom or Suppression?,” February 15, 2006

Witnesses at the hearing included David A. Gross (US State Department), James Keith (US State Department), Michael Callahan (Yahoo!), Jack Krumholtz (Microsoft), Elliot Schrage (Google), Mark Chandler (Cisco Systems), Harry Wu (China Information Center), Libby Liu (Radio Free Asia), Xiao Qiang (UC Berkeley), Lucie Morillon (Reporters Without Borders), and Sharon Hom (Human Rights in China). Additional statements were submitted for the record.
February 15, 2006

Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) presided over the hearing. His opening remarks began: 

“We are here to examine a problem that is deeply troubling to me and, I believe, to the American people, and that is that American technology and know-how is substantially enabling repressive regimes in China and elsewhere in the world to cruelly exploit and abuse their own citizens. 

“Over the years, I have held and chaired 25 hearings on human rights abuses in China, and while China’s economy has improved somewhat, the human rights situation remains abysmal. So-called  ‘‘economic reform’’ has utterly failed to result in the protection of freedom of speech, expression, or assembly. The Laogai system of forced labor camps is still full to capacity, with an estimated 6 mil-

lion people; the Chinese Government which permits a horrifying trade in human organs continues unabated; the PRC’s draconian, one-child-per-couple policy has made brothers and sisters illegal and coerced abortion commonplace; and political and religious dissidents are systematically persecuted and tortured. 

“Similarly, while the Internet has opened up commercial opportunities and provided access to vast amounts of information for people the world over, the Internet has also become a malicious tool, a cyber-sledgehammer of repression of the Government of the People’s  Republic of China. As soon as the promise of the Internet began to be fulfilled, when brave Chinese began to e-mail each other around the world about human rights issues and corruption by government leaders, the party cracked down. To date, an estimated 49 cyber-dissidents and some 32 journalists have been imprisoned by the PRC for merely posting information on the Internet critical of the regime. And, frankly, that is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg. 

“Tragically, history shows us that American companies and their subsidiaries have provided the technology to crush human rights in

the past. Edwin Black’s book, IBM and the Holocaust , reveals the dark story of IBM’s strategic alliance with Nazi Germany. Thanks to IBM’s enabling technologies, from programs for identification and cataloging to the use of IBM’s punch card technology, Hitler and the Third Reich were able to automate the genocide of the Jews. And I would recommend to anyone who is interested to read this book. It is a very, very incisive commentary on how that collaboration worked. 

“U.S. technology companies today are engaged in a similar sickening collaboration, decapitating the voice of the dissidents. In 2005, Yahoo!’s cooperation with Chinese secret police led to the imprisonment of cyber-dissident Shi Tao. And this was not the first time. According to Reporters Without Borders, Yahoo! also handed over data to Chinese authorities on another of its users, Li Zhi. Li Zhi was sentenced on December 10, 2003, to 8 years in prison for inciting subversion. His ‘‘crime’’ was criticizing in online discussion groups and articles the well-known corruption of local officials. 

“Women and men are going to the gulag and being tortured as a direct result of information handed over to Chinese officials. When Yahoo! was asked to explain its actions, Yahoo! said that it must adhere to local laws in all countries where it operates. But my response to that is, if the secret police, a half century ago, asked where Anne Frank was hiding, would the correct answer be to hand over the information in order to comply with local laws? Again, these are not victimless crimes that the Chinese secret police are committing, and I believe we must stand with the oppressed and not with the oppressors….” 

Click here to download the 289 page transcript.