BEIJING – Yahoo Inc. turned over a draft e-mail from one of its users to Chinese authorities, who used the information to jail the man on subversion charges, according to the verdict from his 2003 trial released Wednesday by a rights group.
It was the third time the U.S.-based Internet company has been accused of helping put a Chinese user in prison.
Jiang Lijun, 39, was sentenced to four years in prison in November 2003 for subversive activities aimed at overthrowing the ruling Communist Party.
Yahoo's Hong Kong unit gave authorities a draft e-mail that had been saved on Jiang's account, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said, citing the verdict by the Beijing No. 2 People's Court. The group provided a copy of the verdict, which it said it obtained this week.
Telephones at Yahoo's Hong Kong office and at Alibaba.com, which runs Yahoo's mainland China operations, were not answered Wednesday evening.
Entitled "Declaration," the draft was similar to manuscripts called "Freedom and Democracy Party Program" and "Declaration of Establishment" that were recovered from a computer and a floppy disk owned by two other Internet activists, the verdict said.
The information was listed in the verdict under "physical evidence and written evidence." It proved that Jiang and the other activists were planning to "make preparations for organizing a party and to use violence to overthrow the Communist Party," the verdict said.
Jiang also was one of five activists who signed an open letter calling for political reform that was posted on the Internet ahead of the Communist Party congress — a major event — in November 2002.
"Little by little we are piecing together the evidence for what we have long suspected, that Yahoo is implicated in the arrest of most of the people we have been defending," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.
The group said there were other cases that were similar, but it could not release any details because they were still being investigated.
While China encourages use of the Internet for business and education, it also tightly controls Web content, censoring anything it considers critical or a threat to the Communist Party. Blogs often are shut down, and users who post articles promoting Western-style democracy and freedom are regularly detained and jailed under vaguely worded subversion charges.
The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo also has been criticized by rights groups by providing information in the cases of Li Zhi and Shi Tao.
Li, from southwestern China, was sentenced to prison for subversion after posting comments online criticizing official corruption.
Shi, a reporter, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he sent an e-mail abroad containing notes about a government memo on media restrictions.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in February that China has a right to police the Internet and "guide its development in a healthy and orderly fashion."
Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. also have been accused of enforcing Chinese censorship guidelines.
Google started a Chinese version of its popular search engine that omits links to content deemed unacceptable by the government.
Microsoft shut down, at Beijing's request, a popular Chinese blog that touches on sensitive topics such as press freedoms.
American lawmakers have taken the companies to task, accusing them at congressional hearings of helping China crush dissent in return for access to its lucrative and rapidly expanding Internet market.
China already has the world's second-largest Internet population, behind the United States, with more than 100 million people online.
The Reporters Without Borders report came as Chinese President Hu Jintao visited the United States. His first stop was Seattle, where he dined with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.