Sunday, January 15, 2006

Rewarding inappropriate aggression

China's tyranny has the best hi-tech help

But Beijing has the very best help. Some of the world's most famous Internet companies have lined up to show China how to cripple the Web.

A partial list includes Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Cisco, Sun Microsystems and Skype. Each has its expertise. Google removes from its Chinese site whatever the Chinese deem politically sensitive. According to Reporters without Frontiers, "Cisco Systems has sold several thousand routers to enable the regime to build an online spying system and the firm's engineers have helped set it to spot 'subversive' key-words in messages."

In 2002, Yahoo signed a document called a "Public Pledge on Self-discipline for the Chinese Internet Industry." That agreement led to disaster for Shi Tao. Shi, 37, worked for a business daily. On April 30, last year, he was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for revealing a top state secret, to foreign Web sites. The secret was an official warning to the news media on the threat to China posed by dissidents returning to mark the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen killings. Yahoo and Cisco furnished the technology that permitted the security services to identify Shi.

As dog handlers teach us the behavior you reward is the behavior you will get. Why would the People’s Crumbling Kleptocracy respect laws concerning intellectual property and enforce other contractual agreements if they can persuade these companies to back down on matters of this kind? What is to prevent them from seizing these companies’ property in the same manner that Putin seized Yukos?

Three cheers for Richard Parsons for refusing to be part of this.

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