Document - Undermining freedom of expression in China. The role of Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google

Undermining freedom

of expression in China

The role of Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google



Amnesty International



Published in July 2006 by

Amnesty International UK

The Human Rights Action Centre

17-25 New Inn Yard

London EC2A 3EA

United Kingdom

www.amnesty.org.uk

ISBN: 187332866 4

ISBN: 978-1-873328-66-8

AI Index: POL 30/026/2006

£5.99



‘and of course, the information society’s

very life blood is freedom. it is freedom that

enables citizens everywhere to benefit from

knowledge, journalists to do their essential

work, and citizens to hold government

accountable. Without openness, without the

right to seek, receive and impart information

and ideas through any media and regardless

of frontiers, the information revolution will

stall, and the information society we hope to

build will be stillborn.’

Kofi Annan, Un secretary general



CONTENTS


Executive summary 4


1. Freedom of expression 8

1.1 A fundamental human right 8

1.2 Internet governance and human rights 8


2. Human rights responsibilities of companies 10

2.1 Responsibilities of Internet hardware and software companies 11


3. The human rights situation in China: an overview 13

3.1 The crackdown on human rights defenders 13

3.2 Curtailment of freedom of expression 14

3.3 Internet censorship in China 16


4. The role of Yahoo!, microsoft and google 17

4.1 Mismatch between values and actions 17

4.2 Contravening their principle that users come first 23

4.3 Uncovering their defences 23

4.4 From denial to acknowledgement 26


5. Recommendations for action 28




EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Amnesty International has produced many reports documenting the

Chinese government’s violations of human rights.1 The expansion of

investment in China by foreign companies in the field of information and

communications technology puts them at risk of contributing to certain

types of violation, particularly those relating to freedom of expression and

the suppression of dissent. Our reason for focusing on Internet companies

in this report is that we believe that they are part of the problem, and because

we would like them to act as a ‘force for the good’ in becoming part of the

solution towards improving the human rights situation in China.


This briefing provides an overview of the use of the Internet as a tool to deny

freedom of expression in China, focusing on both the Chinese government’s

suppression of dissent and on the role of Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google in

collaborating with the authorities. The actions of these Internet companies

are contrasted with their proclaimed values. The conclusion drawn is that

they have, through their actions, directly and admittedly contradicted their

values and stated policies. Amnesty International questions the principles

that guide their decisions, and challenges the defences they use to justify

their behaviour. In our view, these do not stand up to scrutiny. A series of

recommendations are proposed to enable them to act in accordance with

international human rights norms.


They have, through their

actions, directly and

admittedly contradicted their

values and stated policies


The internet and freedom of expression – a new

frontier for human rights?

The Internet is one of the most powerful inventions of the digital age. It

has the potential to empower and educate, to cross cultural boundaries

and create global communities. It offers the means for any individual with

access to a computer and a gateway to the Internet to participate in a free

flow of information and ideas with others across the world.


Yet that very potential to transcend national borders and impart information

regardless of frontiers means that the Internet is also the subject of

concerted efforts by governments to restrict freedoms and violate basic

human rights such as the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and

freedom of information.2


In some countries where dissent is suppressed, the struggle for freedom of

expression is now taking place online as governments devote increasing

resources and attention to controlling access to information on the

Internet and to surveillance of users. Their objective is often to prevent

dissemination of information that is critical of them, as well as to track

and monitor dissidents, some of whom may subsequently be imprisoned

for exercising their right to freedom of expression.3


The Internet itself can become a tool of repression where the monitoring

of communications, the censoring and filtering of information and the

amassing of immense databanks of information enhance the ability of

repressive governments to restrict the freedoms and basic human rights of

their citizens. Such national restrictions can affect not just those living in

that country but all who seek to impart or receive information about it.

There are some legitimate cases in which restricting access to certain

information is an important step in protecting human rights, for example

preventing access to child pornography. However, international human

rights standards establish strict conditions under which such restrictions

are permissible. Unwarranted censorship of the kind outlined in this

briefing is contrary to many local laws and established international

norms and values.


The role of companies in internet repression

Governments require the assistance of companies that are providers of

information and communications technology to fulfil these repressive

functions effectively. This raises questions about the collaboration of

these companies in human rights violations that are being committed by

states. In such circumstances, a company runs the risk of being complicit

in a violation through its provision of equipment, technology or services

to a repressive government.


While the use of information and communications technology to suppress

dissent has been documented in many countries, it is the example of China

that has generated the most public and political concern internationally.4

In part this is because the apparatus of Internet repression is considered to

be more advanced in China than in any other country, and in part because

of the willingness of Internet hardware and software companies to cooperate

with the Chinese government in their quest to develop a large and

lucrative market.5


All three companies have,

in one way or another,

facilitated or colluded in the

practice of censorship in

China



The control the Chinese authorities maintain over their citizens’ right to

freedom of expression and information is continuing and pervasive. This

has put the spotlight on the contribution of Internet companies such as

Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google to China’s efforts to maintain such control

and restrict fundamental freedoms. In assisting the Chinese administration

by complying with its censorship demands, these companies are seen to

be facilitating or sanctioning the government’s efforts to control the free

flow of information. They thereby contravene established international

norms and values, and compromise their own stated principles.


International concern regarding the role of US companies in China’s Internet

censorship policy has led the US House of Representatives Committee

on International Relations to hold a joint hearing of the Subcommittee

on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations and the

Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.6 Among the parties that provided

testimony, views were expressed that US Internet companies, including

Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google, have colluded with the Chinese authorities,

undermining their self-proclaimed corporate values, as well as the human

right to freedom of expression and information.


Although there are other Internet companies worthy of investigation

for involvement and assistance in the Chinese government’s Internet

censorship, as well as the suppression of dissent, the focus of this report

is limited to Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google.7


All three companies have, in one way or another, facilitated or colluded

in the practice of censorship in China. Yahoo! has provided the Chinese

authorities with private and confidential information about its users.

This included personal data that has been used to convict at least two

journalists, considered by Amnesty International to be prisoners of

conscience. Microsoft has admitted to shutting down a blog on the

basis of a government request. Google has launched a censored version

of its international search engine in China. All three companies have

demonstrated a disregard for their own internally driven and proclaimed

policies. They have made promises to themselves, their employees, their

customers and their investors which they failed to uphold in the face of

business opportunities and pressure from the Chinese government. This

raises doubts about which statements made by these organisations can be

trusted and which ones are public relations gestures.


Of the three companies, Google has come closest to acknowledging

publicly that its practices are at odds with its principles, and to making a

commitment to increase transparency by informing users in China when a

web search has been filtered. Although there are many other transparency

options that the company should consider, these are welcome first steps.

While each of Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google may be considered to be

complicit in the Chinese government’s denial of freedom of information,

Yahoo!’s actions have, in particular, assisted the suppression of dissent with

severe consequences for those affected. The company allowed its Chinese

partner to pass evidence to the authorities that was subsequently used to

convict individuals, at least two of whom received long prison sentences

for peacefully exercising their legitimate right to freedom of expression.

Thus Yahoo! appears to have failed to honour its responsibility to ensure

that its own operations and those of its partners are not complicit in human

rights abuses. This is in breach of widely recognised international human

rights principles for companies.8


In defending their actions in China, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google maintain

they are under an obligation to comply with local law. They argue that

although it is not an ideal situation, their presence in China is a force

for good. They assert that without their input, censorship would still take

place and that censored information is better than no information at all.

The reality is that the Internet has had an established presence in China

for over a decade, which means that the world’s major Internet companies

can no longer be considered to be helping bring the Internet to China.

Instead, they are attempting to gain an increasing share of a rapidly

growing market in the knowledge that it will expand, with or without

their presence. In effect their activities are facilitating and sanctioning

government censorship rather than challenging it. Companies appear

to have been all too ready to accept the limitations imposed rather than

exerting pressure for legislative and policy change.


The need to comply with local law should not obscure the fact that these

companies operate in a global economy regulated at different levels.

Multinational corporations must consider local law, laws of the country

in which the company is incorporated, the vast array of international law,

best practice and internal policies and procedures. The implications of this

wider set of responsibilities are referred to in Section 2 of this briefing.

Amnesty International believes that there are steps that Yahoo!, Microsoft,

Google and other Internet companies can and should take to enable them

to act in accordance with international human rights norms. While the

following recommendations are framed in the specific context of China,

the same policy principles should be applied by these companies across

their global operations.


Google has come closest to

acknowledging publicly that

its practices are at odds with

its principles


Recommendations for action

Amnesty International calls on Yahoo!, Microsoft, Google and other

Internet companies operating in China to:


1. Publicly commit to honouring the freedom of expression provision

in the Chinese constitution and lobby for the release of all cyber-dissidents

and journalists imprisoned solely for the peaceful and legitimate exercise

of their freedom of expression.


2. Be transparent about the filtering process used by the company in

China and around the world and make public what words and phrases are

filtered and how these words are selected.


3. Make publicly available all agreements between the company and

the Chinese government with implications for censorship of information

and suppression of dissent.


4. Exhaust all judicial remedies and appeals in China and

internationally before complying with state directives where these have

human rights implications. Make known to the government the company’s

principled opposition to implementing any requests or directives which

breach international human rights norms whenever such pressures are

applied.


5. Develop an explicit human rights policy that states the company’s

support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and complies

with the UN Norms for Business and the UN Global Compact’s principle

on avoiding complicity in human rights violations.


6. Clarify to what extent human rights considerations are taken into

account in the processes and procedures that the company undertakes in

deciding whether and how the company’s values and reputation will be

compromised if it assists governments to censor access to the Internet.


7. Exercise leadership in promoting human rights in China through

lobbying the government for legislative and social reform in line with

international human rights standards, through seeking clarification of the

existing legal framework and through adopting business practices that

encourage China to comply with its human rights obligations.


8. Participate in and support the outcomes of a multi-stakeholder

process to develop a set of guidelines relating to the Internet and human

rights issues, as well as mechanisms for their implementation and

verification, as part of broader efforts to promote recognition of the body

of human rights principles applicable to companies.

1. Freedom of expression


1.1 Freedom of expression – a fundamental human

right

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right which is a

prerequisite to the enjoyment of all human rights. Where it is suppressed

other human rights violations follow. Freedom of expression has been

variously described as crucial for the freedom to develop and discuss

ideas in the search for truth and understanding (sometimes evoked as the

‘marketplace of ideas’), autonomy and self-fulfilment of the individual,

and effective participation in the political life of a democratic society.


Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims:

‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right

includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive

and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of

frontiers’.


Amnesty International upholds the right of everyone to freedom of

thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression as set out in the

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on

Civil and Political Rights and other international human rights treaties.

Freedom of expression is not an absolute right. Under international law,

governments may, in defined circumstances, restrict certain forms of

expression or information on narrow grounds such as national security,

the protection of public morals or to protect the rights and reputations of

others, but only to the extent strictly necessary. Amnesty International,

for example, would always argue that any advocacy of national, racial or

religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or

violence (often known as ‘hate speech’) should be prohibited. However,

international human rights law does not permit, still less require, freedom

of expression to be restricted or prohibited simply on the grounds that

others may find it offensive or that the authorities say that it poses a risk to

public order. International and regional human rights treaties apply strict

criteria that any such restriction must be set down in law, have a legitimate

aim and be a proportionate response.9 The onus of demonstrating the

validity of the restriction rests with the government.


1.2 Internet governance and human rights

The impacts of Internet companies on human rights should be viewed in

the context of how the Internet is governed and regulated nationally and

internationally. This is a controversial topic provoking strong opinions

among many stakeholders (representing governments, business and

civil society) across the world. The UN promoted a World Summit on

the Information Society (WSIS) involving 175 countries in two phases

(Geneva 2003 and Tunis 2005) to try to develop a framework for global

Internet governance.10 In the end, the Tunis meeting, unable to agree on

how to govern the Internet, decided to leave much of the control where

it currently resides – concentrated in the hands of the US-based Internet

Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The failure to

reach a binding agreement on the future of Internet governance, or even

what the term should encompass,11 ended with a compromise agreement

to set up a consultative Internet Governance Forum which will meet for

the first time in Athens in November 2006.


Ensuring respect for human rights, including freedom of expression, is

a vital component in creating the Information Society. As UN Secretary

General Kofi Annan stated in his address to the Tunis WSIS meeting:


And of course, the information society’s very life blood

is freedom. It is freedom that enables citizens everywhere

to benefit from knowledge, journalists to do their essential

work, and citizens to hold government accountable. Without

openness, without the right to seek, receive and impart

information and ideas through any media and regardless

of frontiers, the information revolution will stall, and the

information society we hope to build will be stillborn.12

Similarly, the Declaration of Principles agreed by the WSIS in Geneva

and reaffirmed in Tunis emphasises the importance of respecting human

rights in developing the Information Society. This is reflected in the

following clauses:13


We reaffirm, as an essential foundation of the Information

Society, and as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration

of Human Rights, that everyone has the right to freedom of

opinion and expression; that this right includes freedom to hold

opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart

information and ideas through any media and regardless of

frontiers. Communication is a fundamental social process, a

basic human need and the foundation of all social organisation.

It is central to the Information Society. Everyone, everywhere

should have the opportunity to participate and no one should be

excluded from the benefits the Information Society offers.


Improvements to the

governance of the Internet

with regard to human

rights will make it more

likely that companies

providing information and

communications technology

services respect human

rights


We further reaffirm our commitment to the provisions of

Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that

everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and

full development of their personality is possible, and that, in the

exercise of their rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject

only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the

purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights

and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of

morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic

society. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised

contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations. In

this way, we shall promote an Information Society where human

dignity is respected.


To make these pledges a reality, in preparing for the inaugural Internet

Governance Forum, the WSIS Civil Society Human Rights caucus,

a coalition of 65 organisations, has highlighted concerns over the

implications of Internet policies for freedom of expression and the

protection of privacy.14 It seeks to ensure that all Internet policies have

human rights protection as their baseline. It also seeks to establish an

Independent Commission on the Information Society and Human

Rights composed of experts in relevant fields, with a broad geographical

representation, to monitor and assess relevant legislation and policies to

ensure that these are compliant with international human rights standards.

Improvements to the governance of the Internet with regard to human

rights will make it more likely that companies providing information and

communications technology services respect human rights.


2. THE HUMAN RIGHTS

RESPONSIBILITIES OF COMPANIES

Understanding of the scope of the human rights responsibilities of business

is evolving and developing, as can be seen in the 2005 recommendations

of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to the UN Human

Rights Commission.15 While the primary responsibility for respecting

and protecting human rights, such as freedom of expression, rests with

governments, companies also have human rights responsibilities within

their spheres of activity and influence. These responsibilities can be

drawn from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as

from international treaties and national legislation.16 They are reflected

increasingly in codes of conduct for business developed by intergovernmental

bodies, as well as by business associations and individual

companies.


The concept of complicity is

a complex one but also very

relevant to considering the

role of Internet companies

operating in China


International law and standards already extend human rights obligations

beyond states to individuals, armed groups, international organisations

and other private actors. The UN Norms on the Responsibilities of

Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard

to Human Rights (UN Norms), and their Commentary, adopted by the

UN Sub-Commission for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights

in 2003, are the most comprehensive attempt at articulating business

responsibilities for human rights.17 Although the UN Norms themselves

are not legally binding, they constitute a benchmark by which governments

and corporations can assess the compatibility of corporate activities with

relevant human rights standards.


In 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights requested the UN

Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative on the issue of

human rights and business. The mandate includes ‘to identify and clarify

standards of corporate responsibility and accountability’ and ‘to clarify the

implications for transnational corporations and other business enterprises

of concepts such as “complicity” and “sphere of influence”’.18


The concept of complicity is a complex one but also very relevant to

considering the role of Internet companies operating in China. The second

principle of the UN Global Compact, which over 2,500 companies have

signed up to, requires business entities to ‘make sure they are not complicit

in human rights abuses’. Corporations often act in joint ventures with

national and local governments or other private sector partners, and this

could lead to allegations of complicity if the partner itself has abused

human rights.19 One definition of ‘complicity’ states that a company is

complicit in human rights abuses if it authorises, tolerates, or knowingly

ignores human rights abuses committed by an entity associated with it, or

if the company knowingly ‘provides practical assistance or encouragement

that has a substantial effect on the perpetration of human rights abuse’.20


Four situations illustrate where an allegation of complicity might arise

against a company. First, when the company actively assists, directly or

indirectly, in human rights violations committed by others; second, when

the company is in a partnership with a government and could reasonably

foresee, or subsequently obtains knowledge, that the government is likely

to commit abuses in carrying out the agreement; third, when the company

benefits from human rights violations even if it does not positively assist

or cause them; and fourth, when the company is silent or inactive in the

face of violations.21


As with the responsibility to ‘support’ human rights, the duty on business

to act or not to act in each of these situations might not always be clear.

Questions arise as to how much the business entity knew or should have

known about the human rights abuse and the extent to which it assisted

through its acts or omissions in the abuse. Although understanding and

codification of the concept of corporate complicity is still evolving,22

the risk of complicity is particularly high where a company knowingly

facilitates human rights violations by the state through its actions or

omissions, and fails to take action within its power to remedy the situation.

This is a risk that Internet companies are exposed to.


2.1 Responsibilities of Internet hardware and

software companies

Many companies have been subject to critical scrutiny for their apparent

links to repression of freedom of expression in China. These include Sun

Microsystems, Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks and Motorola.23 This

briefing focuses on the role of Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google, in part

because their size and market penetration globally mean that their sphere

of influence over human rights is likely to be greater than that of other

Internet companies. However, the main reason for focusing on these three

companies is that recent events have highlighted the serious human rights

consequences of their actions for individual users. This has exposed the

contradictions between, on the one hand, the image and values that these

companies are trying to project, and on the other hand, the nature of their

activities in China and their dealings with the Chinese government.


The risk of complicity is

particularly high where

a company knowingly

facilitates human rights

violations by the state

through its actions or

omissions


The general responsibilities outlined above carry implications for

companies that sell the technology, equipment or services to monitor

private e-mails or censor Internet access, in contravention of articles 12

and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These articles

protect individuals’ right to privacy, freedom of expression and freedom

to receive and impart information. A company that sells equipment,

technology or services knowing that they can be used for repressive

purposes is in effect a partner in repression.


While companies are under continuous pressure from shareholders

to maximise their profits and can be expected to have a presence in

lucrative markets, this does not absolve them from their human rights

responsibilities. This view is reflected in a joint statement by a number

of investing institutions on the subject of freedom of expression and the

Internet. The investment funds that are signatories to this statement have

committed themselves to monitor the activities of Internet companies in

repressive countries.24

Joint investor statement on freedom of expression

and the Internet


As investors and research analysts, we recognise that our investment decisions

have an impact on human rights around the world. We are therefore committed

to using the tools at our disposal to uphold human rights world wide as outlined

in the United nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), including

freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of assembly and association, and

security of persons.


The growth of the Internet offers considerable opportunities for global broadbased

wealth creation. Companies involved in providing Internet services and

technology are playing a leading role in building global communities and sharing

knowledge. We believe that government action to censor, monitor, isolate

and jail Internet users for exercising basic human rights outlined in the UDHR

threatens the ultimate realisation of these benefits. We believe these actions

also present significant barriers to growth for Internet sector businesses, which

depend on a broadly connected, free Internet.


To help advance freedom of expression, the undersigned:

  • Reaffirm that freedom of expression is a universal human right that companies have an obligation to respect throughout their worldwide operations, and,

  • in particular, in countries with a history of serious and widespread human rights violations;

  • Reaffirm that Internet sector businesses have a particular responsibility in this domain for a number of reasons, including the following:

Their long-term success depends on a broadly connected Internet that is

free of censorship; and

Millions of people depend on their products and services for reliable

access to news and information;

  • Recognise that, according to numerous and credible sources, a number of countries throughout the world do not tolerate public dissent and monitor

  • and control citizens’ access to the Internet as a means of suppressing freedom of expression;

  • Recognise that some businesses help authorities in repressive countries to censor and mount surveillance of the Internet, and others turn a blind eye to the use made of their equipment;

  • state that respect for freedom of expression is a factor we consider in assessing a company’s social performance;

  • Announce that we will monitor the operations of Internet businesses in repressive regime countries to evaluate their impact on access to news and information;

  • Commit ourselves to supporting, at annual general meetings of publicly listed companies, shareholder resolutions that we believe are favourable to freedom of expression or otherwise promote the principles of this declaration;

  • Call on Internet businesses to adopt and make public ethical codes stressing their commitment to freedom of expression and defining their obligations to uphold these freedoms, and

  • Call on Internet businesses to make information public that will allow investors to assess how each firm is acting to ensure that its products and services are not being used to commit human rights violations (including products and services that enable Internet censorship, surveillance and identification of dissidents).







3. THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN

CHINA: AN OVERVIEW


If you don’t dare to let people speak... you will sow the

seeds of disaster. It is bound to trigger collective resistance

and set off turbulence…. History shows that only in

totalitarian systems do you need media controls. This is in

the mistaken belief that you can forever keep the public in

the dark.


The words above are not those of a prominent Chinese activist, but of a

group of veteran Chinese Communist Party cadres, including the former

top propaganda official and Mao Zedong’s personal secretary. They come

from a joint statement sent in February 2006 to President Hu Jintao and

Premier Wen Jiabao, China’s new leaders since 2003.


Lawyers, journalists and

human rights defenders are

being detained, imprisoned,

harassed and intimidated


These strong words were sent in reaction to the closure by the authorities

of a popular publication, Bing Dian (Freezing Point), and the wave of

dismissals, arrests, and imprisonment of journalists, editors, and private

Internet users who pushed the boundaries of tight censorship. They reflect

the sharp turn for the worse in the protection of freedom of expression and

association in China today.


The statement from Chinese Communist Party veterans makes the

absence, or weakness, of critiques of human rights violations in China

from other governments all the more dismaying.


Amnesty International has documented a deterioration in human rights

in recent years. The space for public critique has narrowed over the last

year. Lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders are being detained,

imprisoned, harassed and intimidated. There are numerous reports of

government authorities relying on force to stifle legitimate demands

for redress of grievances, including land seizures without due process

or adequate compensation. China is the world leader in executions with

thousands of people executed and sentenced to death each year. The death

penalty appears to be used to address underlying social and economic

problems. The Uighur minority in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous

Region face intensified repression under the guise of China’s ‘war on

terror’.25 Freedom of expression and religion continue to be severely

restricted in Tibet. Christians not belonging to the officially recognised

church must practice their religion underground – making themselves

and their property highly vulnerable to police raids and arrests. Members

of banned spiritual groups, including the Falun Gong, face harsh

persecution.


3.1 The crackdown on human rights defenders

The heightened intolerance on the part of the current Chinese leadership of

public criticism has resulted in the detention, disappearance, imprisonment,

beatings, intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and

others seeking justice. On 8 February, 2006 Gao Zhisheng, a prominent

human rights lawyer, initiated a hunger strike to protest against the harsh

treatment of lawyers, petitioners, and other human rights defenders.

Numerous individuals were detained, formally arrested, or remain missing

as a result of the hunger strike. Hu Jia, a prominent HIV/AIDS activist,

went missing on 16 February and was detained without charge for more

than two months. During this time, public authorities refused to provide

any information and refused to admit he was being held. Qi Zhiyong, an

activist for the rights of people with disabilities, also went missing on 15

or 16 February 2006 and was detained without charge or trial until 28

March. Qi received gunshot injuries during the crackdown on the 1989

pro-democracy demonstration, which left him disabled. Wang Lizhuang,

a 48-year-old media professor, who had drafted an open letter on behalf

of people evicted from their homes in Shanghai, was taken away from his

workplace by police on 21 February 2006. Other human rights defenders

targeted by the authorities include Ouyang Xiaorong, Chen Xiaoming,

Wang Lizhuang, Mao Hengfeng, Ma Yalian, Yan Zhengxue, Yu Zhijian,

to name only some of those known to Amnesty International.


3.2 Curtailment of freedom of expression

While the focus of this briefing is on the Internet companies, Amnesty

International’s primary concerns with regard to freedom of expression

relate to the role of the Chinese authorities in continuing to add layers of

regulations and controls to an already sophisticated system of censorship.

Controls operate at every level – from service providers, Internet cafés,

blog managers, to individual users. Foreign corporations have given in

to government censorship demands. However, despite sophisticated

technological filters, the effectiveness of censorship in China still rests

on self-censorship, as companies, institutions, and individuals seek to

avoid punishments associated with crossing the line. Broadly and vaguely

defined ‘state secrets’ offences continue to be used to prosecute journalists,

editors, and Internet users circulating or expressing opinions critical of

the government, or information that exposes the government to criticism.

Journalist Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in prison in April 2005 for

leaking ‘state secrets’.26 He had posted on the Internet a summary of a

government order instructing the media on how to handle the upcoming

anniversary of the crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy movement.


Despite sophisticated

technological filters, the

effectiveness of censorship

in China still rests on selfcensorship


Amnesty International has urged governments internationally to take the

following steps to promote respect for freedom of expression in China:

  • Urge the Chinese government to revise the State Secrets Law

  • to rectify the vague, broad, and retroactive definition of ‘state secrets’ and the ‘national interest’.

  • Urge the Chinese government to remove the requirement that Internet cafés verify the identities of their patrons before allowing them Internet access.

  • Press the Chinese authorities to eliminate the requirement for media organisations to have a government sponsor to obtain a licence.

  • Raise the issue of corporate complicity in government censorship in China with home-based information and communications technology companies operating in China.


Journalist Shi Tao imprisoned for 10 years for sending an email


Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist, is serving a 10-year prison sentence in China for sending an email on 20 April 2004 summarising the content of a Chinese Central Propaganda Department communiqué orally transmitted

to editorial staff at the newspaper where shi worked. He sent the email using his Yahoo account to the editor of a Chinese prodemocracy website based in the US.


On the basis of this email, the Chinese authorities accused Shi Tao of ‘illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities’. He was detained on 24 November 2004 and officially arrested on 14 December 2004. He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on 27 April 2005.

The vaguely-worded legal definition of what constitutes a ‘state secret’ gives

the Chinese authorities broad discretion to detain those engaged in the peaceful

exercise of their right to free expression.

According to the transcript of the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court

of Hunan Province, Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong), the Us-based Internet

company, provided account holder information that was used as evidence in the

case against shi Tao, which resulted in his 10-year prison sentence.

A representative of shi Tao’s family has filed a privacy complaint with Hong

Kong’s office for the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data against Yahoo!’s

Hong Kong subsidiary for its role in the case.

Currently imprisoned in Chishan prison, shi Tao is reportedly being forced to

work under harsh conditions. His family has been harassed by the authorities.

His wife underwent daily questioning by public security bureau officials and was

persistently pressured by her work unit to divorce him, which she eventually did.

shi Tao’s uncle and brother have also been under surveillance and harassed

both at work and at home, and his mother is also reportedly being closely

monitored and harassed as she petitions for his release.

Amnesty International considers shi Tao a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned

for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, a right entrenched in

international law and the Chinese Constitution.



3.3 Internet censorship in China

Ever since the introduction of the Internet in China in 1994 and particularly

since its commercialisation in 1995, the Chinese government has sought

to control its content and to censor information it deemed detrimental

or sensitive. With over 111 million Internet users,27 experts consider that

China operates the most extensive, technologically sophisticated and

broad-reaching system of Internet filtering in the world.28 The implications

of this distorted on-line information environment for China’s users are

profound and disturbing. Despite China’s rapidly expanding economy the

political climate still favours repression of dissent and restrictions over

fundamental freedoms. Amnesty International is greatly concerned by

the actions taken by the Chinese authorities to limit the dissemination

of information and repress those individuals and groups who choose to

peacefully exercise their legitimate right to express dissent.


The sophisticated technology

that allows the government

to block and filter Internet

content is primarily designed

by foreign companies


The sophisticated technology that allows the government to block and

filter Internet content is primarily designed by foreign companies. Words

and phrases that have been targeted include ‘human rights’, ‘democracy’

and ‘freedom’. This pervasive system of filtering ‘undesirable’ information

is so effective partly because the process lacks transparency. There is no

means by which Chinese citizens may appeal to have a site unblocked

and it is not clear what words or phrases are banned and how the decision

is made to prohibit certain topics. In September 2005, the government

enacted the ‘Rules on the Administration of Internet News Information

Services’, which required all individuals and organisations that publish

news to be officially sanctioned. The only guidance offered by the

government regarding the reasons behind this decision was that it was in

the interests of ‘serving socialism’, ‘upholding the interest of the State’

and ‘correctly guiding public opinion’.


There are reportedly thousands of Internet police monitoring cyberspace

in China.29 Amnesty International expressed its concerns before the US

Congressional Human Rights Caucus in February 2006.30 Those concerns

included the fact that individuals have been imprisoned for expressing

opinions and publishing information that the government deems

‘subversive’ under laws that also provide for the death penalty. China

currently has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and

cyber-dissidents in the world. Amnesty International has documented

at least 54 Chinese Internet users it believes are presently imprisoned

for such acts as signing petitions, calling for an end to corruption,

disseminating information about SARS and planning to establish prodemocracy

groups.31


4. THE ROLE OF YAHOO!, MICROSOFT

AND GOOGLE


4.1 Mismatch between values and actions

Values are those beliefs that influence choices and actions. Many companies

today espouse a set of values and principles by which they claim to do

business. Companies use these principles as a tool to secure investment,

recruit talent and attract customers. All types of stakeholders, including

customers, investors and analysts, are interested in how a company

makes decisions and what its prevailing principles are. These provide an

indication of how a company will respond to certain circumstances and

they give guidance to employees on how to behave when acting on behalf

of the company. The principles a company adopts reflect the nature and

extent of the business risk the company is willing to take. This provides

important signals to its stakeholders of what to expect from the company.


Integrity without knowledge

is weak and useless, and

knowledge without integrity

is dangerous and dreadful.’

Samuel Johnson


Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google claim to be ethically responsible companies.

They publicly articulate the principles according to which they conduct their

business, so that customers and investors can understand their beliefs and

thus make informed decisions about the company. These representations

on which stakeholders rely may be found in the companies’ annual reports,

speeches, press releases and on their websites. A company’s values may

also be determined by its codes of conduct and by the statements of

organisations to which it is affiliated. For example, Microsoft and Google

are members of the Internet Society, a non-profit organisation with the

mission of promoting ‘the open development, evolution, and use of the

Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world’.32 The Code of

Conduct for its members includes the requirement that in all professional

dealings these organisations will ‘respect the rights of all Internet users to

privacy of, and freedom of access to information and communication...’.33

By virtue of their relationship with this organisation these companies

present themselves as supporters and adherents of this Code of Conduct.


Yahoo! values

Yahoo says of itself:


Our mission is to be the most essential global Internet

service for consumers and businesses. How we pursue that

mission is influenced by a set of core values – the standards

that guide interactions with fellow Yahoo!s, the principles

that direct how we service our customers, the ideals that

drive what we do and how we do it. Many of our values

were put into practice by two guys in a trailer some time

ago; others reflect ambitions as our company grows. All of

them are what we strive to achieve every day.34


These values are categorised into Excellence, Innovation, Customer

Fixation, Teamwork, Community and Fun, and include ‘an infectious

sense of mission to make an impact on society and empower consumers

in ways never before possible’ and ‘winning with integrity’.


Yahoo! claims that since its foundation in 1995,


Yahoo! has been guided by beliefs closely held by our founders

and sustained by our employees: we believe the Internet

is built on openness, from information access to creative

expression. We are committed to providing individuals

with easy access to information and opportunities to openly

communicate and exchange views and opinions.35

Yahoo! also claims to ‘respect the privacy of our customers and understand

that the data they provide us should be maintained securely.’36


Yahoo! actions

Yahoo! was one of the first foreign Internet companies to enter the Chinese

market in 1999. In 2005 it invested $1billion in local Chinese Internet

firm Alibaba and transferred ownership of Yahoo! China to that company.

Yahoo! is now a 40 per cent minority shareholder in Alibaba. As a result

of this move, Yahoo! now claims that decisions about cooperating with

Chinese officials are in the hands of Alibaba and not Yahoo!. It claims that

Yahoo! is not involved in the day-to-day management of the company and

that it holds only one seat on the board of directors. In its testimony to

the US House of Representatives in February 2006, Yahoo! made further

attempts to distance itself from responsibility for its role in China by

urging ‘the US government to take a leadership role on a governmentto-

government basis… ultimately the greatest leverage lies with the US

government.’37


In 2002 Yahoo! voluntarily signed the ‘Public Pledge on Self-discipline for

the Chinese Internet Industry’.38 Among other things, the Pledge requires

Yahoo! to ‘refrain from producing, posting or disseminating harmful

information that may jeopardise state security and disrupt social stability,

contravene laws and regulations and spread superstition and obscenity’.

Yahoo! was under no legal obligation to sign this pledge. By taking this step,

the company has aligned itself with the Chinese government’s approach to

suppressing dissent, damaging its own credibility in the process.


Yahoo!’s claim that the pledge does not impose a greater obligation

than already exists in local law is a contentious one. By signing this

pledge Yahoo! is agreeing with and expressing its support for some of

the requirements of the Chinese government that are inconsistent with

international human rights and freedom of expression.


By signing this pledge

Yahoo! is agreeing with and

expressing its support for

some of the requirements

of the Chinese government

that are inconsistent with

international human rights


Since signing the pledge, Yahoo! has continued to censor search results

via the Chinese version of its search engine.


Even more disturbing, Yahoo! has also admitted to providing the

Chinese authorities with information that led to the eventual arrest and

imprisonment of at least two journalists, Li Zhi and Shi Tao, considered

by Amnesty International to be prisoners of conscience. Both men

received substantial prison sentences for activity which included

disseminating information relating to the government response to the

Tiananmen Square massacre. The case of Shi Tao, jailed for 10 years in

April 2005 for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression –

a right entrenched in international law and the Chinese Constitution – has

provoked widespread international condemnation. The incarceration of

Li Zhi in 2003 was highlighted in the 2004 Amnesty International report,

Controls tighten as Internet activism grows, but Yahoo!’s role has only

recently come to light.39


Yahoo! accepts that the Shi Tao case ‘raises profound and troubling

questions about basic human rights’, but the company distances itself

from responsibility.40


Microsoft values

Microsoft’s most recent advertising campaign is about helping users reach

their potential:


We see history’s great minds dropping in wherever

they’re needed. Exposure to great teachers, great books,

and great thinking, is the most essential requirement for

learning, no matter where the student or the classroom.

When the world of learning opens to them, children can

grow in any direction. It inspires us to create software that

helps them reach their potential.

Your Potential. Our Passion.™


At Microsoft, we understand

that our reputation is a

direct reflection of how we

demonstrate our corporate

values through our actions

every day.’41


Responsible corporate

citizenship is defined by

good behaviour, not good

intentions.’42

Microsoft


Through its mission Microsoft claims to value integrity and honesty,

openness and respectfulness. The company maintains that it has ‘worked

hard to make Microsoft a values-driven company that maintains the

highest standards of professional conduct, meets or exceeds the ethical

and legal expectations of countries where we do business and seeks to

enable people throughout the world to realise their full potential’. It

claims: ‘As a corporate leader in the global community we see it as our

responsibility to engage in national and regional dialogues on the issues of

the day. Over the course of the past several years we have been increasing

the size of our government relations team to meet this need.’ It goes on:

‘Microsoft works to help countries around the world put information and

communications technology and software to use in ways that improve the

social and economic well-being of local populations.’43


Microsoft’s Chief Executive Officer Bill Gates has been actively involved

in the censorship debate. When speaking about a new US law restricting

access to information on the Internet in the interest of curbing children’s

exposure to pornography on the Internet, he said:


Microsoft and others in industry and non-profit organisations

were deeply involved in trying to block language that would

put chilling restrictions on the use of the Internet for the free

publication of information. The language, ostensibly aimed

at keeping pornography out of the hands of children, goes

much too far in restricting freedom of expression…. Let’s

not undermine the world wide trend toward free expression

by setting a bad example when it comes to free speech on a

computer network.44


This statement implies that Microsoft believes in a consistent set of

principles that apply globally. This is reinforced by Gates’ suggestion that

‘…if you have access to a PC and the Internet, you can tap into almost all

the information that is publicly available worldwide.’45 While this might

come close to being true in some countries, it is not the case that people in

China can access almost all the information available worldwide. Gates’

vision presupposes freedom of information and the absence of political

censorship.


Microsoft actions

Microsoft has admitted that it responds to directions from the Chinese

government by restricting users of MSN Spaces from using certain terms

in their account name, space name, space sub-title or in photo captions:


Pursuant to the direction of the Chinese government, Spaces

users may not use certain terms in their account name, space

name, or space sub-title – or in photo captions. We employ

a ‘restricted term’ list for this purpose and we make every

effort to keep the list to a minimum number of terms.46

At the same time the company asserts that MSN Spaces does not filter

blog content in any way.47 Amnesty International considers this claim to

be at odds with the facts.


When Microsoft launched MSN Spaces in China in June 2005, attempts

to create blogs with words including ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’ and

‘freedom of expression’ in the title were blocked, producing an error

message in Chinese which translates to ‘You must enter a title for your

space. The title must not contain prohibited language, such as profanity.

Please type a different title.’ Subsequent tests showed that MSN also

blocked use of certain terms such as ‘Tibet Independence’ and ‘Falun

Gong’ in the title of blogs. Tests carried out by Amnesty International

in June 2006 demonstrated the continuing blocking of certain terms,

including ‘Tiananmen incident’ in the title of blogs.


‘…when your business is

understood to be a global

arbiter of human knowledge

and commerce, sticking to

such a principled stand can

become extremely ... tricky.’48

John Battelle


Microsoft in its statements has tried to blur the distinction between

‘blocking’ users from carrying out searches and ‘filtering’ the results

of searches. This obscures the fact that Microsoft’s China-based search

engine (MSN China) filters the results of searches for politically sensitive

terms. What this means, for example, is that of the total potential sites that

could be retrieved in doing a search on, say, ‘Tiananmen Square’, a certain

number of these will be removed by the search engine itself. In conducting

a search for a politically sensitive term using ‘beta.search.msn.com.cn’, a

page comes up that states in Chinese: ‘Certain content was removed from

the results of this search’. Searches undertaken in June 2006 produced

this message for terms including ‘Falun Gong’, ‘Tibet independence’ and

‘June 4’ (date of Tiananmen Square massacre). Of the results that are

given for such terms, there is a predominance of official sites and others

sanctioned by the government. This amounts to censorship.


In the absence of full disclosure of the terms that Microsoft restricts,

and information on whether Chinese language terms are more likely to

be censored than other terms, it is difficult to ascertain the extent of the

filtering that Microsoft undertakes.


Chinese journalist and blogger Zhao Jing (also known as Michael Anti)

used MSN Spaces online to run his own blog. Zhao, who is an active critic

of censorship in China, eventually had his blog shut down by Microsoft

on 30 December 2005 following a request from Chinese authorities.

The blog, which is hosted on servers located in the United States, was

removed and was therefore censored not only in China but globally. As a

result of immediate criticism, Microsoft claims to have developed a set of

standards that it would adhere to in the future. Microsoft claims that it will

only remove blogs when it receives formal legal notice from the Chinese

government and that access would be denied to users only in China.


Google values

On 19 July 2001 a group of Google employees met to discuss the founders’

vision and to develop a motto to guide the company. It was in this meeting

that the phrase ‘Don’t be evil’ came into being. This motto has been

the cornerstone of the company’s values. ‘Don’t be evil’ is a definitive

statement which provides little room for ambiguity. The founders clearly

hold themselves to be morally aware. Many have questioned whether

Google could in fact adhere to such a high standard.


Google however has maintained that the founders’ principles are paramount

in the way Google runs its business. In March 2006, Google CEO, Eric

Schmidt, stated: ‘We are running the company under the philosophy and

principles that are written in that initial founders’ letter. We’re going to

continue running the company under those principles.’49


The founders’ letter asserts:


Throughout Google’s evolution as a privately held

company, we have managed Google differently. We have

also emphasised an atmosphere of creativity and challenge,

which has helped us provide unbiased, accurate and free

access to information for those who rely on us around the

world…50


Google’s CEO has emphasised the empowering role of the Internet:


The democratisation of information has empowered us all

as individuals. We no longer have to take what business, the

media or indeed politicians say at face value. Where once

people waited to be told what the news was, they can now

decide what news matters to them.51


The assumption that the

Internet enables people to

be more critical of the words

of politicians presupposes

the right to disseminate such

views


The view that people should be able to decide what news matters to

them assumes that they have free access to information. Similarly, the

assumption that the Internet enables people to be more critical of the

words of politicians presupposes the right to disseminate such views. If

a government is able to censor material that it wants to hide from people,

then it becomes more difficult for the Internet to play this role.


Eric Shmidt also emphasises the role of the Internet as an equaliser of

opportunity across the world:


The prize is a world in which every human being starts life

with the same access to information, the same opportunities

to learn and the same power to communicate. I believe that

is worth fighting for.52


This vision of Google’s CEO is a powerful one, dependent for its

realisation on the existence of freedom of expression.


Google actions

Despite the ‘Don’t be evil’ motto and assertions that Google is a company

that holds strongly to steadfast and unwavering principles, the company

announced in January 2006 the launch of Google.cn – a self-censoring

Chinese search engine. This is an alternative to Google’s existing search

engine based outside China (Google.com). The non-censored one

continues to be available to all Chinese Internet users, but searches need

to pass through China’s ‘firewall’, which censors a great deal and slows

down the search process.


Google has stated that it is not happy with the decision to introduce a

censored version of its international search engine. According to Google

representative Elliot Schrage ‘The requirements of doing business in China

include self-censorship – something that runs counter to Google’s most

basic values and commitments as a company.’53 Andrew McLaughlin,

Senior Policy Counsel for Google, also states ‘Filtering our search results

clearly compromises our mission.’54


Citizens of China are willing

to risk jail for freedom of

expression when certain

American companies are

unwilling to risk profits for

the same principles.’59

James A Leach, US Congressman


In mitigation, the company emphasises that it has made some concessions

to protect the Chinese people. It has, for example, offered to inform users

when information is being censored and has decided not to launch gmail

or other services that hold personal and confidential information until the

company feels confident that it can protect users’ expectations in terms

of privacy and security of confidential information.55 Google states that it

would only add these new services ‘if circumstances permit’ and it ‘will

carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other

restrictions…’.56


While it is a positive step for Google to indicate to users that a search has

been censored, there are further steps that should be taken, such as making

public the list of censored words and phrases.57 This is something that

the Internet companies could achieve by collaborating with each other to

exert pressure on the Chinese government to make the list public.

It appears that the company has foregone its founding vision and restated

its beliefs, as illustrated by the following example. On 26 January 2006

the Google Help Centre offered the following response to the question

‘Does Google censor search results?’


Google does not censor results for any search term. The

order and content of our results are completely automated,

we do not manipulate our search results by hand. We believe

strongly in allowing the democracy of the web to determine

the inclusion and ranking of sites in our search results…


Several months later, the same question generated a different answer:


It is Google policy not to censor search results. However,

in response to local laws, regulations or policies we may

do so. When we remove search results for these reasons we

display a notice on our search results page…58


Google has made concessions to its critics by attempting to rationalise

and mitigate its behaviour, including the offer to withdraw from China

should the situation require. However, by conceding to the Chinese

government’s censorship policy, Google undermines the principles it

asserts are paramount to its business.


Betrayal of trust

All three companies have in different ways facilitated or participated in

the practice of government censorship in China. Yahoo! has provided the

Chinese authorities with private and confidential information about its

users that included personal data that has been used to convict at least

two individuals considered by Amnesty International to be prisoners of

conscience.60 Microsoft has been accused of shutting down a blog on the

basis of an informal government request. Google has launched a censored

version of its international search engine in China. All three companies

have demonstrated a disregard for their own proclaimed policies. They

made promises to themselves, their employees, their customers and their

investors which they failed to uphold in the face of business opportunities

and pressure from the Chinese government. This raises doubts about

which statements made by these organisations can be trusted and which

ones are public relations gestures.


The willingness of Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google to override their

principles amounts to a betrayal of trust in the face of the lucrative

opportunities that the Chinese market offers them. The country’s estimated

111 million Internet users represent only about 9 per cent of China’s total

population of 1.3 billion. With a burgeoning economy, this proportion is

set to rise.


Serving our end users is at

the heart of what we do and

remains our number one

priority.’61

Google


4.2 Contravening the principle that users come first

One principle that Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google hold in common is the

belief that the user comes first.


Your most unhappy

customers are your greatest

source of learning.’62

Bill Gates, Microsoft


Companies such as Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft present themselves as

responsible, customer-focused organisations. They claim a commitment

to meeting or exceeding user expectations. Google even claims to have

temporarily withheld certain products from the Chinese market because

they could not ensure that user expectations would be met. According

to these companies, ‘user expectations’ drive decision making. It would

therefore be logical to assume that should these companies become

aware that users are interested in their right to freedom of expression and

communication, then they would act to respect these rights.


We respect our customers

above all else and never

forget that they come to

us by choice. We share a

personal responsibility to

maintain our customers’

loyalty and trust. We

listen and respond to our

customers and seek to

exceed their expectations.’ 63

Yahoo!


The growing number of individuals who have developed ways to

circumvent the filtering process indicates that users in China are not

satisfied with filtered information. Individual users are developing code

words to express their ideas without triggering the filtering mechanism.

Another example is the ‘Adopt a Blog’ campaign, which was developed

as a result of China’s restrictions on blogging services. This programme

links bloggers in China with those in other countries which will allow the

content to be stored in servers outside China’s jurisdiction. Anonymizer,

an identity protection company, has also developed anti-censorship

software that will enable Chinese users to access the Internet censorshipfree

without the fear of repression or persecution. These examples provide

some indication about the ‘expectations’ of China’s 111 million Internet

users that they can exercise their right to freedom of expression and

information without fear or hindrance.


4.3 Uncovering their defences

In defending their actions in China, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google maintain

they are under an obligation to comply with local law. They argue that

although it is not an ideal situation, their presence in China is a force for

good. They assert that without their input censorship would still take place

and that censored information is better then no information at all.


Yahoo! China was legally

obligated to comply with the

requirements of Chinese law

enforcement…. Ultimately US

companies in China face a

choice: comply with Chinese

law, or leave.’64

Michael Callahan, senior vice president

and general counsel, Yahoo!


First line of defence: We must comply with local law

US Internet companies such as Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google claim that

they do not morally agree with the restrictions on freedom of expression

in China but they are forced to co-operate with the policy based on the

premise that local Chinese law demands it. In fact, this argument assumes

a greater degree of clarity than currently exists on the substance of

Chinese law, as the complex range of relevant rules, laws and regulations

are vaguely worded and often contradictory. Those laws that do require

monitoring and filtering of content are vague in their language and

offer little guidance on how and what information is to be censored.

Significantly, none of the companies has been willing or able to specify

precisely which laws and legal processes it has been obliged to follow.

Companies are in effect operating in a zone of ambiguity where they have

to make a judgment as to where the boundaries of the law lie. This lack

of certainty has created a situation where Internet companies are under

pressure to undertake ‘self-censorship’. There is no definitive list of

banned words or phrases. Companies, in an effort to retain their licence to

operate, are required to ‘feel their way’ and follow the filtering habits of

competitors. This threatens to lead to a race to the bottom.


We think that blogging

and similar tools are

powerful vehicles for

economic development

and for creativity and free

expression…..We believe

that its better to make

these tools available than

not……Therefore, based on

grounds of human rights and

freedom of expression alone,

Microsoft believes that we

should continue to provide

our Internet-enabled services

in China.’69

Jack Krumholtz, associate general

counsel and managing director, federal

government affairs, Microsoft


China’s filtering efforts lack transparency: the state does

not generally admit to censoring Internet content, and

concomitantly there is no list of banned sites and no ability

for citizens to request reconsideration of blocking, as

some other states that filter provide. The topics defined as

sensitive, or prohibited, by China’s legal code are broad and

non-specific, and enforcement of laws such as the ban on

spreading state secrets discourages citizens from testing the

boundaries of these areas.65


In addition, Chinese censorship laws and practices contradict the

foundations of the Chinese legal system – the Constitution. The Chinese

Constitution, under article 35, provides for freedom of speech, of the

press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration

for all citizens. Moreover, State Council Order No. 292, promulgated in

September 2000 and giving guidance on content restriction for Internet

Content Providers, stipulates under article 15 that information cannot be

disseminated which is against the principles prescribed in the Constitution.

The vague provisions of laws governing access to the Internet should

therefore be interpreted in the light of the guiding principles of the

Constitution, which takes precedence over those laws and which should

be applied with reference to international human rights standards.


The need to comply with local law should not obscure the fact that

these companies operate in a global economy regulated at different

levels. Multinational corporations must consider local law, the laws

of the country in which the company is incorporated, the vast array of

international law, best practice and internal policies and procedures. The

implications of this wider set of responsibilities are referred to in Section

2 of this briefing. The defence that it is enough merely to comply with

local law is simplistic. Microsoft expressed this most accurately in its

2004 Citizenship Report:


For us, compliance means more than complying with

laws and regulations that impact our day-to-day business

activities. Compliance also means living our values and

being accountable to Microsoft’s Code of Conduct, which

govern our business practice around the world…. As part

of our commitment, we’ve taken practical steps to meet or

exceed all of our legal obligations…66


These companies should also recognise that their actions are in breach of

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides

for freedom of expression for everyone,67 and that China is a signatory

to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),

which contains more specific obligations on Freedom of Expression and

Freedom of Information.68


Amnesty International believes that companies should resist being bound

by domestic laws that contravene international human rights standards,

at the very least by questioning and seeking to clarify the implications of

such laws.


It is illogical for companies

to say they are expanding

the boundaries of freedom

in China if they strip their

product of the very qualities

that make it a force for

greater freedom.’70

Tom Malinowski, Human Rights Watch


One way in which the Internet companies should contribute towards

greater transparency and clarity is to state explicitly which laws they are

complying with and what their legal interpretation of these laws is in

the context of their own operations. This would make it clearer when

a company is obeying local law, as opposed to responding to political

pressure voluntarily, for example by signing the Chinese government’s

‘Public Pledge on self-discipline for the Chinese Internet Industry’. A

further way is by exhausting all judicial remedies and appeals in China

when asked to comply with a state directive that would render them

complicit in a human rights violation.


Second line of defence: Access to censored information is better than

no information at all. Our presence in the country will aid economic

development which will lead to political change


The argument that the mere presence of the world’s leading Internet

companies in China will aid economic liberalisation which will

automatically lead to political freedom, is spurious. Sound economic

development requires full exercise of freedom of information and

expression. Censorship denies the ability to question the model of

economic development being pursued and the policies which have fuelled

deepening inequality. As Sharon Hom of Human Rights in China points

out, ‘engagement and presence in the market alone will not inevitably

lead to any particular result except for market access for the companies.

Corporate engagement and presence in China will contribute to greater

reform and openness only if it is responsible and coherent.’72


Even though we weren’t

doing any self-censorship,

our results were being

filtered anyway…’71

Elliot Schrage, vice president, global

communications and public affairs,

Google


The reality is that the Internet has had an established presence in China

for over a decade, which means that the world’s major Internet companies

can no longer be considered to be helping bring the Internet to China.

Instead, they are attempting to gain an increasing share of a rapidly

growing market in the knowledge that it will expand with or without

their presence. In effect, their activities are facilitating and sanctioning

government censorship rather than challenging it. Companies appear

to have been all too ready to accept the limitations imposed rather than

exerting pressure for legislative and policy change.


While Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google argue that their mere presence in

China will expedite political reform, the authorities have kept pace in the

race between freedom of expression and suppression of dissent. China’s

system of Internet filtering has become more effective. According to a

2005 study by the OpenNet Initiative ‘… the research we have conducted

over several years… demonstrates increasing sophistication of China’s

filtering regime. Its filtering system has become at once more refined

and comprehensive over time, building a matrix of controls that stifles

access to information deemed illegitimate by authorities.’ The study adds:

‘… China’s legal controls over the Internet have expanded greatly since

2000, indicating increased attention to this medium of communication.

Moreover the number of regulatory bodies with a role in Internet control

has increased.’73 The claim that the presence of Internet companies in

China has brought reform is untenable.


The question these companies should be asking is, how can they collaborate

with each other most effectively to influence the way the Internet is used

in China so as to bring about positive outcomes for human rights.


Third line of defence: The Internet in China would be censored

regardless of our input

To assess the impacts of information technology hardware and software

companies, it is helpful to understand the evolution of Internet censorship

in China.


When China first opened its commercial doors to the Internet in 1995 it

blocked access to three overseas websites, according to the Washington

Post.74 Although the extent and number of sites being filtered today

cannot be measured, it has been estimated that thousands will never reach

Chinese users.


As the Internet grows in popularity the government is investing more

resources into keeping a solid grip on the flow of information. There are

no signs that China is looking to reverse its stance on Internet monitoring

and punishment of users who exercise their universal right to freedom of

expression. As Internet technology expands in China, so do the authorities’

efforts to control it. In addition to the large numbers of Internet police who

are reportedly designated to patrol cyberspace in China, there is an array

of new technology being developed which will improve the effectiveness

of monitoring Internet users. Policenet, courtesy of Cisco, is an example

of recent technology which forms part of the government’s $800 million

investment in Project ‘Golden Shield’.75 Policenet, which operates in 22

of the 23 Chinese provinces, connects the records of the Public Security

Bureau across the country, thus expanding the bureau’s ability to monitor

and track Chinese civilians.


As the Internet grows in

popularity the government

is investing more resources

into keeping a solid grip on

the flow of information

Yahoo!’s actions, in

particular, have assisted the

suppression of dissent with

severe consequences for

those affected


Information technology hardware and software companies have contributed

to the increasing sophistication of the Chinese government’s Internet

filtering system. In addition, by co-operating with the government’s

censorship polices, these companies give greater legitimacy to them than

if the companies were to challenge them. At the same time as they are

collaborating with the Chinese government’s actions, they are not only

jeopardising their own principles, but also undermining Chinese users

who are exercising their right to freedom of expression.


4.4 From denial to acknowledgement

Companies that are hit by a reputational crisis that they are unprepared

for often go through a phase of denial and defensiveness.76 This has been

the case with many sectors including: a) footwear and apparel companies

in relation to sweatshop conditions; b) the cocoa industry with regard to

forced labour in certain parts of Africa; c) the pharmaceutical sector in

relation to pricing and distribution of drugs in developing countries; d) the

extractive sector on the issue of revenue transparency and on relationships

with security forces in zones of conflict; e) bio-technology companies

with regard to bio-diversity and genetically modified organisms; f) the

food and beverages industry in relation to the impacts of its products on

health; g) the diamond industry on the issue of armed conflict in diamondmining

areas of Africa.


Many of the companies that have found themselves exposed on these

issues, and that have become a target of public pressure as a result, have

subsequently begun to address the problem. Often this has meant cooperating

with other companies in the same sector or across sectors, and

sometimes also with governments and NGOs.77


This briefing has illustrated that some Internet hardware and software

companies are clearly in denial when it comes to addressing the human

rights impacts of their operations in countries where there is a lack of

freedom of expression and where dissent is suppressed. In Amnesty

International’s view, the arguments advanced by Yahoo!, Microsoft and

Google to defend their position do not stand up to scrutiny.


Of the three companies, Google has come closest to acknowledging

publicly that its practices are at odds with its principles, and to making

a commitment to increased transparency by informing users in China

when a web search has been filtered. Although there are many other

transparency options that the company should also consider, these are

welcome first steps.


While each of these companies may be considered to be complicit in

the Chinese government’s denial of freedom of information, Yahoo!’s

actions, in particular, have assisted the suppression of dissent with severe

consequences for those affected. Yahoo! allowed its Chinese partner to

pass evidence to the authorities which was subsequently used to convict

individuals, at least two of whom were sentenced to lengthy terms of

imprisonment for peacefully exercising their legitimate right to freedom

of expression. In doing so, Yahoo! appears to have failed to honour its

responsibility to ensure that its own operations and those of its partners are

not complicit in human rights abuses.


Yahoo!’s actions, in

particular, have assisted the

suppression of dissent with

severe consequences for

those affected


In different ways, all three companies have failed to live up to two

fundamental human rights principles embodied in the UN Global

Compact:


Principle 1

Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally

proclaimed human rights within their sphere of influence.


Principle 2

Businesses should ensure that their own operations are not complicit in

human rights abuses.


The evidence presented in this briefing illustrates that Yahoo!, Microsoft

and Google have disregarded to a large extent the effects of their operations

on human rights, and in particular on Internet repression. They need to

stop denying their culpability, acknowledge where their responsibilities

lie, and begin to focus on solutions. The following recommendations

indicate the concrete steps that these and other Internet companies can

take to address the lack of freedom of expression in China and to avoid

contributing to any further human rights abuses.


5. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACTION


Amnesty International calls on Yahoo!, Microsoft, Google and other

Internet companies operating in China to:


1. Publicly commit to honouring the freedom of expression provision

in the Chinese constitution and lobby for the release of all cyber-dissidents

and journalists imprisoned solely for the peaceful and legitimate exercise

of their freedom of expression.


2. Be transparent about the filtering process used by the company in

China and around the world and make public what words and phrases are

filtered and how these words are selected.


3. Make publicly available all agreements between the company and

the Chinese government with implications for censorship of information

and suppression of dissent.


4. Exhaust all judicial remedies and appeals in China and

internationally before complying with state directives where these have

human rights implications. Make known to the government the company’s

principled opposition to implementing any requests or directives which

breach international human rights norms whenever such pressures are

applied.


5. Develop an explicit human rights policy that states the company’s

support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and complies

with the UN Norms for Business and the UN Global Compact’s principle

on avoiding complicity in human rights violations.


6. Clarify to what extent human rights considerations are taken into

account in the processes and procedures that the company undertakes in

deciding whether and how the company’s values and reputation will be

compromised if it assists governments to censor access to the Internet.


7. Exercise leadership in promoting human rights in China through

lobbying the government for legislative and social reform in line with

international human rights standards, through seeking clarification of the

existing legal framework and through adopting business practices that

encourage China to comply with its human rights obligations.


8. Participate in and support the outcomes of a multi-stakeholder

process to develop a set of guidelines relating to the Internet and human

rights issues, as well as mechanisms for their implementation and

verification, as part of broader efforts to promote recognition of the body

of human rights principles applicable to companies.


FOOTNOTES


1 Amnesty International, People’s Republic of China: Human Rights

Defenders at Risk, ASA 17/002/2005; People’s Republic of China:

The Olympic countdown – three years of human rights reform?, ASA

17/021/2005; People’s Republic of China: Briefing on EU concerns

regarding human rights in China, ASA 17/027/2005. http://web.

amnesty.org/library/eng-chn/index

2 Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu, Who controls the Internet? Illusions of a

borderless World, Oxford University Press, 2006.

3 Amnesty International reports on cyber-dissidents: China: People’s

Republic of China, Controls tighten as Internet activism grows, January

2004, http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGASA170052004;

Vietnam: http://www.web.amnesty.org/appeals/index/vnm-010805-

wwa-eng;

Syria: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGMDE240172004;

Egypt: http://web.amnesty.org/appeals/index/egy-010403-wwa-eng;

Equatorial Guinea: http://web.amnesty.org/appeals/index/gnq-010902-

wwa-eng;

Angola: http://web.amnesty.org/appeals/index/ago-011001-wwa-eng;

4 Reporters Without Borders cites 15 countries in its list of ‘Internet

black holes’. http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=273

5 The OpenNet Initiative, Internet Filtering in China in 2004-2005: A

Country Study, April 2005. http://www.opennetinitiative.net/studies/

china/ONI_China_Country_Study.pdf

6 http://usinfo.state.gov/dhr/Archive/2006/Mar/21-178338.html

7 Amnesty International cited several companies in its report: People’s

Republic of China: State Control of the Internet in China, ASA

17/007/2002, November 2002.

8 Avoiding complicity is one of 10 human rights principles set down in

the UN Global Compact, an initiative of the UN Secretary General

involving some 2000 companies and institutions. http://www.

unglobalcompact.org/AboutTheGC/TheTenPrinciples/index.html

9 Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

sets out the limits of permissible restrictions. http://www.unhchr.ch/

html/menu3/b/a_ccpr.htm

10 World Summit on the Information Society. http://www.itu.int/wsis/

11 The June 2005 report of the Working Group on Internet Governance

offers as a working definition: Internet governance is the development

and application by Governments, the private sector, civil society, in

their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision

making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use

of the Internet.

12 Kofi Annan, November 2005, Tunis. http://www.itu.int/wsis/tunis/

statements/docs/io-un-opening/1.html

13 Outcome of the first phase of the World Summit on the Information

Society, Geneva, December 2003. http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs/

geneva/official/dop.html

14 http://www.iris.sgdg.org/actions/smsi/hr-wsis/

15 http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/chr/docs/61chr/E.CN.4.2005.91.

doc

16 Every individual and every organ of society, keeping this declaration

constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote

respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures,

national and international, to secure their universal and effective

recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Members

States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their

jurisdiction:

Preamble, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (emphasis

added).

17 http://www.unhchr.ch/huridocda/huridoca.nsf/(Symbol)/

E.CN.4.Sub.2.2003.12.Rev.2.En?Opendocument

18 UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights.

http://www.business-humanrights.org/Gettingstarted/

UNSpecialRepresentative

19 Irene Khan, Amnesty International Secretary General, presentation

to Business and Human Rights Conference in London, December

2005,Understanding Corporate Complicity: Extending the notion

beyond existing laws. http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGPOL

340012006?open&of=ENG-398

20 ‘The Global Compact and Human Rights: Understanding Sphere of

Influence and Complicity: OHCHR Briefing Paper’, in Embedding

Human Rights in Business Practice, joint publication of the UN

Global Compact and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for

Human Rights, 2004, p. 19.

21 International Council on Human Rights Policy, Beyond Voluntarism:

Human rights and the developing international legal obligations of

companies (Geneva, February 2002), pp. 125-136.

22 The International Commission of Jurists has set up an Expert Legal

Panel on Corporate Complicity in International Crimes. http://www.

business-humanrights.org/Updates/Archive/ICJPaneloncomplicity

23 Amnesty International: People’s Republic of China: State Control of

the Internet in China, ASA 17/007/2002, November 2002. In February

2001, Human Rights Watch called on Motorola Corp. to reassess its

promotion and sale of communications equipment to the police in

China.

24 Statement drawn up by Reporters Without Borders. List of signatories:

http://www.rsf.org/fonds-investissement-en.php3

25 Amnesty International, People’s Republic of China: Uighurs fleeing

persecution as China wages its ‘war on terror’, July 2004. http://web.

amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGASA170212004

26 Amnesty International, Yahoo’s data contributes to arrests in China:

free Shi Tao from prison in China! case details and action. http://web.

amnesty.org/pages/chn-310106-action-eng

27 China Internet Network Information Center 16th Statistical Survey

Report on the Internet Development in China (July 2005). http://

www.cnnic.net.cn/download/2005/2005072601.pdf

28 OpenNet Initiative Internet Filtering in China in 2004-2005: A

Country Study; 14 April 2005, p4. http://www.opennetinitiative.net/

studies/china/

29 Testimony of Harry Wu, China Information Center before the

Subcommittees on Africa, Global Human Rights and International

Operations and Asia and the Pacific 15 February, 2006. http://wwwc.

house.gov/international_relations/109/wu021506.pdf

30 T Kumar’s evidence on Human Rights and the Internet in China before

the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, The United States Congress.

http://lantos.house.gov/HoR/CA12/Human+Rights+Caucus/Briefing

+Testimonies/02-06-06+Testimony+of+T.+Kumar+China+Google+

Briefing.htm

31 ibid.

32 http://www.isoc.org/

33 http://www.isoc.org/members/codeconduct.shtml

34 http://docs.Yahoo!.com/info/values/

35 http://yhoo.client.shareholder.com/press/ReleaseDetail.

cfm?ReleaseID=187401

36 http://brand.Yahoo!.com/forgood/responsibility/privacy.html

37 Testimony of Michael Callahan, Senior VP and General Counsel,

Yahoo! Inc before the Subcommittees on Africa, Global Human

Rights and International Operations and Asia and the Pacific 15

February, 2006. http://wwwa.house.gov/international_relations/109/

cal021506.pdf

fooTnoTes

38 Reporters Without Borders cites 15 countries in its list of ‘Internet

black holes’. http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=273

39 Amnesty International, People’s Republic of China, Controls tighten

as Internet activism grows, ASA 17/001/2004, January 2004.

40 Yahoo! response to Amnesty International action on freedom of

expression in China. http://www.reports-and-materials.org/Yahooresponse-

re-Amnestyaction -on-Shi-Tao-16-May-2006.doc

41 2005 Citizenship Report. http://download.microsoft.com/download/

f/b/f/fbf17e42-bb6b-4ffb-bf3c-2bbfe1b76548/CitizenshipReport_

Composite_LowRes_9-22-05.pdf

42 Microsoft statement, 16 May 2006. http://www.reports-and-materials.

org/Microsoft-response-re-Amnesty-action-on-China-censorship-16-

May-2006.doc.

43 Microsoft 2004 Citizenship Report. http://download.microsoft.

com/download/7/5/4/7548d2a2-9d22-4d2d-8c13-2521f6a1c148/

citizenship2004.pdf

44 http://openacademy.mindef.gov.sg/OpenAcademy/

Learning%20Resources/Microsoft/words/words_8a.htm

45 http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/ofnote/12-05Newsweek.mspx

46 Microsoft 2003 Citizenship Report. http://download.microsoft.

com/download/7/5/4/7548d2a2-9d22-4d2d-8c13-2521f6a1c148/

citizenship2003.pdf

47 Ibid.

48 John Battelle, The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the

Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture, 2005, Penguin.

49 http://www.smh.com.au/news/breaking/google-just-wants-to-getbigger/

2006/ 03/03/1141191817544.html

50 http://www.ipogoogle.org/founders-letter.htm

51 Eric Schmidt, ‘Let more of the world access the web’, Financial

Times, 22 May, 2006.

52 Ibid.

53 Testimony of Elliot Schrage, VP Global Communications and

Public Affairs Google Inc, before the Subcommittees on Africa,

Global Human Rights and International Operations and Asia and the

Pacific 15 February, 2006. http://wwwc.house.gov/international_

relations/109/sch021506.pdf

54 Andrew McLaughlin, Senior Policy Counsel Google, ‘Google in

China’, 27 January, 2006. http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2006/01/

google-in-china.html

55 Google response to Amnesty International action on censorship in

China. http://www.reports-and-materials.org/Google-response-re-

Amnesty-action-on-China-censorship-15-May-2006.doc

56 Testimony of Elliot Schrage, VP Global Communications and

Public Affairs Google Inc, before the Subcommittees on Africa,

Global Human Rights and International Operations and Asia and the

Pacific 15 February, 2006. http://wwwc.house.gov/international_

relations/109/sch021506.pdf

57 See recommendations in Section 5.

58 22 May, 2006. http://www.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer

=17795&topic=368

59 James A. Leach’s statement to US House International Relations

Committee hearing 15 February, 2006. http://wwwc.house.gov/

international_relations/109/leach021506.pdf

60 The cases of Shi Tao and Li Zhi have been verified by Amnesty

International.

61 http://www.smh.com.au/news/breaking/google-just-wants-to-getbigger/

2006/03/03/1141191817544.html

62 Bill Gates’ Business @ The Speed of Thought Web Site. http://www.

microsoft.com/billgates/speedofthought/looking/additional.asp

63 Testimony of Elliot Schrage VP Global Communications and Public

Affairs Google Inc, before the Subcommittees on Africa, Global

Human Rights and International Operations and Asia and the

Pacific 15 February, 2006. http://wwwc.house.gov/international_

relations/109/sch021506.pdf

64 Testimony of Michael Callahan, Senior VP and General Counsel,

Yahoo! Inc before the Subcommittees on Africa, Global Human

Rights and International Operations and Asia and the Pacific 15

February, 2006 http://wwwa.house.gov/international_relations/109/

cal021506.pdf

65 OpenNet Initiative Internet Filtering in China in 2004-2005: A

Country Study http://www.opennetinitiative.net/studies/china/

66 Microsoft 2004 Global Citizenship report http://download.microsoft.

com/download/7/5/4/7548d2a2-9d22-4d2d-8c13-2521f6a1c148/

citizenship2004.pdf

67 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression;

this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference

and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through

any media and regardless of frontiers

(Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

68 Article 19, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights http://

www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_ccpr.htm

69 Testimony of Jack Krumholtz, Associate General Counsel and

Managing Director, Federal Government Affairs, Microsoft

Corporation before the Subcommittees on Africa, Global Human

Rights and International Operations and Asia and the Pacific 15

February, 2006 http://wwwc.house.gov/international_relations/109/

kru021506.pdf

70 Testimony of Tom Malinowski Human Rights Watch, before the

Congressional Human Rights Caucus Members Briefing: Human

Rights and the Internet – The People’s Republic of China 1 February,

2006 http://lantos.house.gov/HoR/CA12/Human+Rights+Caucus/

Briefing+Testimonies/02-06-06+Testimony+of+Tom+Malinowski+

China+Google+Briefing.htm

71 Testimony of Elliot Schrage, VP Global Communications and

Public Affairs Google Inc, before the Subcommittees on Africa,

Global Human Rights and International Operations and Asia and

the Pacific 15 February, 2006 http://wwwc.house.gov/international_

relations/109/sch021506.pdf

72 Testimony of Sharon Hom, Executive Director, Human Rights in

China before the Subcommittees on Africa, Global Human Rights and

International Operations and Asia and the Pacific 15 February, 2006

http://wwwa.house.gov/international_relations/109/hom021506.pdf

73 Testimony of Harry Wu, China Information Center before the

Subcommittees on Africa, Global Human Rights and International

Operations and Asia and the Pacific 15 February, 2006.

74 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/20/

AR2006022001305.html

75 ‘Golden Shield’ is a Chinese government initiative. One of its aims is

to develop an online database with an all-encompassing surveillance

network which would allow the authorities immediate access to

records on every citizen in China.

76 JF Rischard’s model, The Five Stage Classification of Business

Engagement.

77 eg. ‘Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights’ (tripartite

initiative involving extractive companies, governments and NGOs);

Kimberley Process (inter-governmental process to suppress the

illegal trade in diamonds); Harkin-Engel Protocol (initiative for

cocoa industry to comply with ILO Convention No.182 on The Worst

Forms of Child Labour); Ethical Trading Initiative (alliance of retail

companies, trade unions and NGOs to improve labour conditions in

supply chains).



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