The mother of a Chinese journalist serving a 10-year jail sentence on Sunday called for US Internet giant Yahoo to be penalised for handing authorities the information that led to his conviction.
Shi Tao was convicted of divulging state secrets after he posted a Chinese government order forbidding media organisations from marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising on the Internet. Police identified him using information provided by Yahoo.
Shi’s mother, Gao Qinsheng, told a press conference she hoped Yahoo would be punished for its actions.
Her comments came after Shi’s name was added to a lawsuit filed against Yahoo and its Hong Kong subsidiary in the United States by another Chinese cyberdissident, Wang Xiaoning.
Information provided by Yahoo was also used to convict Wang, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for "incitement to subvert state power". The two are suing the company for breach of their human rights.
Hong Kong legislator and pro-democracy campaigner Albert Ho, who has campaigned on the issue, said the case could become a class action lawsuit.
Lawyers believe information provided by Yahoo has enabled Chinese authorities to convict at least four journalists and campaigners.
Ho, who became involved after Shi’s mother approached him for help, said he had also filed an appeal against a ruling by the Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner that Yahoo did not breach Shi’s rights.
"It is academic really because Shi Tao is in prison. But we want to seek some redress against Yahoo," said Ho.
The US corporation defends its action on the grounds that it has to comply with China’s laws to operate there.
In an emotional address, Gao said her son was a dedicated journalist who had been victimised by the authorities.
She was in Hong Kong on her way back from South Africa, where she collected a press freedom award on behalf of her son.
She said he had been kept under close surveillance in jail and had suffered skin disease and stomach problems, although he appeared in good spirits.
The 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre remains one of the most taboo subjects in China, where the official line is that authorities put down the "political disturbance" to safeguard economic and social stability.
This week three top editors of a Chinese newspaper were sacked over the publication of an advert saluting the mothers of victims of the massacre.