Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Damning evidence

Did you read last week how top Yahoo Inc. officals were lambasted by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) because the company gave information to the Chinese government that led to the jailing of a journalist? As reported by the Associated Press, Lantos told Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and General Counsel Michael Callahan their behavior was either "inexcusably negligent" or "deliberately deceptive" because the two did not reveal the extent of Yahoo's conduct in testimony before Congress last year. Lantos also insisted they apologize to Shi's mother, who was sitting behind them in the House meeting room. Of course, the Yahoo execs said Yahoo had no choice but to reveal information about Shi's online activities after they got a subpoena from the Chinese government. They also said they didn't know what Peking was looking for when the company got the subpoena. Shi was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly revealing state secrets, a common charge against pro-democracy activists in China. But what are U.S. companies to do when they do business in countries with repressive regimes? "I do not believe that America's best and brightest companies should be playing integral roles in China's notorious and brutal political repression apparatus," Lantos told the Yahoo execs. But does the U.S. have rules against it? Should we? And if we do, should we enforce them against Chevron in, say, a brutal military dictatorship like Burma, or against other oil companies in a less-toxic country like Saudi Arabia, where a small group of men control the wealth and women must cover their heads and are not allowed to drive cars?

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