By RYAN ABBOTT
Torture Victims Say Cisco Systems Helped China Hound and Surveil
GREENBELT, Md. (CN) - Chinese citizens claim Cisco Systems played a role in getting them tortured and thrown into labor camps by helping the Chinese government create the "Great Firewall of China," a vast Internet censorship system that the Communist Party uses to spy upon citizens and stifle free speech.
Three named plaintiffs sued Cisco Systems, its CEO John Chambers and other executives, including 2006 China Computer World "IT Figure of the Year" Thomas Lam, the president of Cisco's China Operations.
Du Daobin, Zhou Yuanzhi and Liu Xianbin seek damages for human rights violations, including torture and false imprisonment.
All three men say they served time in Chinese prisons for protesting the Chinese government and Internet censorship. They and John Does 1-10 were "arbitrarily detained, arrested, tortured, subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and/or subjected to forced labor, as a result of defendants' actions in aiding and abetting these violations of United States and international law including federal state laws," according to the federal complaint.
The men say the Communist Party has spied upon and stifled its own people by aggressively monitoring the Internet since at least 1998.
In 2000, the Party created a nationwide surveillance program called the Golden Shield Project, a sophisticated system of Internet filters and censors. The system, also known as the "Great Firewall of China," is "widely used to suppress peaceful political, social, and religious dialogue of dissent," the men say.
Du Daobin says he was tortured by being "forced to sit on a low bench for two months, which led to cardiac prolapse and difficulty walking." His sin was to publish online articles criticizing the Party's policies and dictatorship. "At the same time, Du's wife was continually harassed and abused; and their child was under constant surveillance at school."
Zhou Yuanzhi, an "active cyber writer," says he wrote more than 40 articles promoting human rights and democracy in China. Police searched his home, confiscated his computer and "severely tortured" him in a detention center until he "confessed" that he was writing a report for a research foundation. He was released and placed under house arrest.
"Although the house arrest formally ended on November 3, 2008, the local police managed to make his home a prison. During the past three years, Zhou has been under constant police surveillance. The police have discretely placed a dozen surveillance cameras around his house," Zhou claims. "The police randomly enter Zhou's house to check his computer."
Chinese police used the system to monitor and harass Liu Xianbin, who served 2½ years in prison for demanding political reform after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
"Liu was intimidated by police who threatened to send him back to prison unless he stopped writing. Liu did not comply because he believes freedom of speech is a basic human right," he says.
Liu says he was sentenced in March to 10 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power. He says he's been tortured and assaulted in prison by other prisoners, at the encouragement of prison police.
The men say Cisco's aid in developing China's Internet censorship and monitoring system violates the Alien Tort Statute; the Torture Victim Protection Act; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other national and international laws.
They seek compensatory and exemplary damages.
Also named as defendants are Owen Chan, president of Cisco's Asia Pacific Operations, and Rick Justice, an executive adviser to the CEO.
The plaintiffs are represented by Daniel Ward with Ward Ward in Washington, D.C.
Courthouse News Service