An Amnesty International report has accused three major US companies-Google, Microsoft and Yahoo-of helping the Chinese government crush political dissent and freedom of expression.
Releasing its report "Undermining freedom of expression in China - the role of Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google,'' the human rights watchdog on Thursday said these companies provided the Chinese regime information about the Internet users that was later used to convict many political activists and journalists.
The report was released on the eve of the 14th summit of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation in New Delhi, in which China, for the first time, would be participating as an observer.
The report says that while all these three companies "may be considered to be implicit in the Chinese government's denial of freedom of information, Yahoo's actions in particular have assisted the suppression of dissent with severe consequences to those affected.''
Yahoo, the report said, allowed its Chinese partner to pass on confidential information about the Internet users to the government. This was used to convict at least two journalists, the report said.
The Amnesty has declared both the journalists as "prisoners of conscience'' and has launched a global campaign to pressure Beijing into releasing them.
In defence, the three majors told the Amnesty that "they were obliged to comply with the local laws."
The companies claimed that "their presence in China was helping the cause of freedom to the extent that censored information was better than no information at all.''
Rejecting their arguments, the Amnesty said the US majors were merely trying to gain maximum hold in the ever-expanding market in China. "In effect, their activities are facilitating and sanctioning government censorship rather than challenging it,'' the report says. Also, there was no evidence of they putting up a legal fight, it said.The Amnesty has asked these companies to declare their stand on freedom while doing business in China. It has recommended that these companies "should have a transparent filtering process used in China and around the world and make public what words and phrases are filtered and how these words are selected and also making public all agreements they have entered with China.''