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Hack Yahoo gave up to China is released from prison

Shi Tao gets out of jail 15 months early

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Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was arrested in 2004 after Yahoo China handed over key data to the authorities, has been released from prison 15 months before the end of a 10 year sentence.

Writers’ group the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC) announced the news and called for the release of others in a similar position.

"We welcome news of Shi Tao’s early release, at a time when there seem to be increasingly long shadows over freedom of expression in China,’ said Marian Botsford Fraser, chair, PEN International Writers in Prison Committee.

“Shi Tao’s arrest and imprisonment, because of the actions of Yahoo China, signalled a decade ago the challenges to freedom of expression of internet surveillance and privacy that we are now dealing with.”

Shi was arrested in November 2004 and sentenced the following year to a decade behind bars for “leaking state secrets abroad”. What he had in fact done was send an email to a New York-based web site detailing what media restrictions the authorities were enforcing ahead of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Yahoo bore the brunt of widespread public outrage at the time after it handed over the info needed to convict Shi, although it maintained that it was forced to comply with Beijing’s request or face prosecution itself.

It wasn’t the first time the US web giant’s readiness to work with the authorities led to the imprisonment of a journalist.

Wang Xiaoning, who was released last August at the age of 62, was jailed in 2003 for “incitement to subvert state power" after posting essays critical of the Communist Party to Yahoo Groups.

The firm then handed over info including Wang’s IP address which made it easy to track the content back to him. Wang’s wife Yu Ling settled out of court after suing Yahoo in 2007 under the US Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victims Protection Act.

Yahoo China, which is run by local e-commerce player Alibaba Group, is little more than a domain name now as its email service was finally shuttered in the Middle Kingdom last month. ®

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