Harry Wu on the Release of Shi Tao

Submitted by LRF on

On August 23, 2013, Chinese authorities released Shi Tao from prison, one year and three months prior to the end of his sentence. Shi is still deprived of political rights for the next two years. He has returned to his home in Yinchuan City in Ningxia Autonomous County. 

Shi’s case is very simple; he was sentenced for “illegally providing state secrets to a foreign organization.” In 2004, Shi worked as an editor for “Contemporary Business News.”  On April 20, 2004, the deputy editor of the newspaper convened a special meeting. At this meeting, he relayed the CPC Central Committee and State Council directive titled “Announcement Regarding the Stability Maintenance Work” (Central Committee General Office No. 11 Document). After the meeting, Shi used his Yahoo! email account to send an email to Taiwanese-American Hong Zhesheng in which he described the substance of the official directive. Hong Zhesheng was a one of the founders of the Asia Democratic Foundation and the editor of the website Democracy Forum.

After Shi publicized these so-called internal documents, the government traced the email and requested that Yahoo! determine the identity of the person who sent the message. Yahoo! actually provided the Communist Party Public Security Department with a report detailing such information, including the sender’s IP address, email address, telephone number, account information, the time the email was sent, the content of the email, etc. This provided the Party with strong evidence to use against Shi, who was arrested and sentenced to a 10-year prison sentence by the Hunan province Intermediate People’s Court.

Yahoo! could never do this type of thing in the US. However, Yahoo!’s attorney told the US Congress, “We must comply with Chinese laws.” This shows that they definitely helped the Chinese government do these very things in China. We ask Yahoo!: “You should know that China is a country ruled by a communist dictatorship. In this respect, China is no different from the former Soviet Union. Would you also comply with Soviet laws?”

After Shi was arrested, his mother raised awareness of his plight within China and abroad. From 2006-2007, she filed a lawsuit against Yahoo! in Hong Kong. However, since Hong Kong is a part of China, its courts were unable to handle the case.

Shi’s mother and attorney subsequently contacted the Laogai Research Foundation, seeking a means to sue the company in an American court. The Laogai Research Foundation agreed to help Shi, and in May 2007, Shi Tao and Wang Xiaoning filed suit in California. Yahoo! had also provided Chinese security officials with Wang's personal information after he sent an email from his Yahoo! account. He was also sentenced to 10 years.

In November of 2007, the US Congress held a hearing during which Yahoo! corporate officers, including Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang and attorney Michael Callahan were called to testify. The Laogai Research Foundation arranged for Shi’s mother Gao Qisheng and Wang’s wife Yu Ling to attend the hearing. After the hearing they met with Jerry Yang to arrange a settlement.

With the help of the Laogai Research Foundation, the parties negotiated a large settlement that compensated them for the suffering their family member endured.

The Chinese government’s persecution of Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao is unjustifiable. Their long sentences show that the horrors of the 20th century have spilled into the 21st century. We believe that in the near future the Chinese Communist Party will have no choice but to admit their mistakes in persecuting these two men. History will certainly judge their cases in a different light.

I wish Shi good health and happiness.


Harry Wu