Cisco Being Sued For Aiding and Abetting in China’s Internet Crackdown

 With the financial support of the Laogai Research Foundation, three Chinese dissidents filed a lawsuit against Cisco Systems, Inc. in the United States District Court in Maryland. Mr. Du Daobin, Mr. Zhou Yuanzhi, and Mr. Liu Xianbin are suing Cisco Systems, Inc. and several senior management personnel including: Thomas Lam, President of China Operations; Owen Chan, President of Asia Pacific Operations; Rick Justice, Executive Advisor; and John Chambers, Chairman and CEO. The defendants are accused of knowingly aiding and abetting the Chinese government’s internet crackdown by providing technology and training for the construction and operation of the “Golden Shield Project”, also known as “China’s Great Firewall”. The plaintiffs are prolific writers who promote democratic reform and increased freedoms for the Chinese people through articles published on the internet.  It was through network surveillance technology provided by Cisco that the Chinese Ministry of Public Security was able to track the Plaintiffs down for exercising their right to free speech. This led to their harassment, arbitrary detention and arrest, and physical, mental, and emotional torture and abuse.  The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages for injuries and are requesting that the defendants be held accountable for their actions.

Since early 2000, Cisco has been involved with the construction of the “Golden Shield Project,” providing technology and training to the Ministry of Public Security which the Chinese government has used to monitor, track, and arrest political dissidents, practitioners of “illegal” religions, and anyone who posts content that threatens the stability of the Communist Party. This has affected countless victims, including artist and political activist Ai Weiwei, civil rights activist Chen Guangchen, and human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.

 The most well-known victim, however, is the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. After helping to write Charter 08, a petition for political reform, and authoring numerous articles promoting democracy and human rights in China, Mr. Liu was rewarded not only with a Nobel Prize, but also with detention, arrest, deprivation of political rights, and a hefty 11-year prison sentence. While Liu remained in prison during the awards ceremony, Cisco’s CEO John Chambers made it to Oslo, making known his company’s contribution to funding the Nobel Peace Prize Concert. Yet, without Cisco’s extensive cooperation, it would not have been so easy for China’s Ministry of Public Security to monitor the writer’s online activities and imprison him on the charge of “inciting subversion of state power.”  Although Liu Xiaobo has no way of fighting for justice from inside his prison cell, through this lawsuit, plaintiffs Du, Zhou, and Liu hope to expose the extent of Cisco’s cooperation with the Ministry of Public Security.

 Harry Wu, Laogai Research Foundation Executive Director, held a press conference , June 7th, at the National Press Club and discussed Cisco’s role in China’s internet crackdown and answered questions about this increasingly important issue.

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