Thursday, November 15, 2007

Yahoo Takes Hit Meant for China

Editor’s Note: U.S. Congress’ attempt to penalize Internet giant Yahoo is just collateral damage in the real political battle it is waging on China, asserts NAM contributor George Koo. (First appeared in

No matter what the U.S. Congress will have us believe, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang was just the proxy for Congressman Tom Lantos to vent his anti-China demagoguery, in the controversy involving Yahoo’s turning over Internet usage data to Chinese officials.

At a Congressional hearing on Foreign Affairs chaired by the Democratic Congressman from California, Lantos denounced Yahoo and CEO Jerry Yang as “moral pygmies” for turning over the data.

Yahoo’s office in Hong Kong allegedly complied with China’s official request for records that would identify the sender of messages forbidden by the Chinese government. Consequently, Chinese journalist Shi Tao was apprehended and sent to jail.

At the televised hearing, the grief- stricken mother of the jailed journalist sat behind Yang throughout his testimony.

Lantos’ grandstanding, captured in full by the TV cameras, was as dramatic as Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe at the U.N. general assembly nearly 40 years ago.

Of course, Lantos is well known as the defender of human rights and a critic of China’s policies and practices. Yang was just the proxy for Lantos to vent his anti-China demagoguery.

Unfortunately, members of the U.S. Congress aren’t exactly “moral giants” when it comes to defending America’s own human rights and principles we hold dear.

Lantos led the inquiries into the horrors of Abu Ghraib; but when the Bush administration decided to stonewall Congress, Lantos and his fellow pygmies quietly went away.

Shortly before the Yahoo hearing, Lantos received a group of Dutch legislators after they toured Guantanamo. They suggested that the prison base “symbolizes everything that is wrong with this war on terror.”

One would expect a defender of human rights to agree, but Lantos was indignant. He said that Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay. (At least he seemed to recognize that atrocities had been committed in both.)

Apparently, this eager defender of China’s human rights has been clueless about the abuses committed by his own homeland. By declaring war on terror, Bush has successfully pulled the wool over a Congress that should know better.

In coining the term “enemy combatant,” the Bush administration has found a technicality to incarcerate prisoners indefinitely without semblance of any human dignity and due process. The U.S. Congress has simply gone along.

Now Congress is in the process of legalizing the wholesale deprivation of Americans’ civil liberties: AT&T will be allowed to eavesdrop, free from legal liability, and turn in e-mail traffic to the Department of Homeland Security.

The reasoning is that we Americans should be willing to give up some liberties in exchange for a more secure homeland.

The difference between the United States and China is that China asked for Internet data on select citizens, while the United States spied on its people without asking.

The United States, meanwhile, claims that the central difference between the two nations is that China is guilty of human rights abuses that would be unthinkable here. Unfortunately, when it comes to human rights abuses, China and the United States have more in common than we would like to admit. There is no limit to how hypocrisy can cloud one’s sense of right and wrong.

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