Shi Tao: China frees reporter imprisoned in Yahoo email case
China has freed journalist Shi Tao after eight years in prison, according to a CNN report. Shi was convicted and jailed after leaking Chinese media restrictions to a human rights group.
The government considered the act “leaking state secrets”, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
The Internet giant Yahoo was widely criticized for handing over the reporter’s emails to the Chinese government, which were used in the case against Shi, according to court documents.
The writers’ organization PEN International announced Shi’s release Saturday. Shi was a member of PEN, which advocates freedom of speech.
The restrictions Shi leaked dealt with the media’s coverage of the 15th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in which pro-democracy demonstrators were killed in a military crackdown.
Government figures put the death toll at 241, including soldiers. Human rights groups believe the number killed was more likely in the thousands.
When the United States Congress investigated the case after Shi’s conviction, Yahoo attorneys defended the handing over of Shi’s email information to the Chinese government, arguing that refusing to do so would have put the company’s employees in China in jeopardy.
“I cannot ask our local employees (in China) to resist lawful demands and put their own freedom at risk, even if, in my personal view, the local laws are overboard,” said Yahoo lawyer Michael Callahan in 2007.
Yahoo agreed to a settlement with Shi’s family for an undisclosed amount.
The late Congressman Tom Lantos had harsh words for Yahoo at the time, saying, ”It took a tongue-lashing from Congress before these high-tech titans did the right thing and coughed up some concrete assistance for the family of a journalist whom Yahoo had helped send to jail”.
According to Marian Botsford Fraser, who heads the Writers in Prison Committee for PEN, Shi was evidently released on August 23, but she just learned of it some two weeks later. She also said Shi is now living with his mother and is in good spirits, but does not want to speak publicly.
Chinese state media has not mentioned Shi’s release.