China frees Yahoo dissident after 10 years

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 August, 2012, 11:13am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 August, 2012, 12:18pm

A Chinese dissident convicted of subversion based on evidence provided by US internet company Yahoo was released from prison on Friday after serving a 10-year term, his wife said.

Wang Xiaoning, 62, became a cause celebre after a Beijing court named Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) as the source of evidence that led to his 2003 conviction, in a public relations disaster for the company.

Wang was released from prison in the early hours of Friday “in a good mental and physical state”, his wife Yu Ling told reporters.

Yu said she had “stayed up half the night” in a police station waiting for her husband, after police visited her house to inform her of his release.

“I’m really happy my husband is home,” she said, speaking by telephone from the couple’s home in Beijing, where she said her husband was resting after his release.

She added that Wang should never have served a prison sentence for distributing essays that advocated democratic reform and criticised China’s one-party Communist rule using his Yahoo e-mail account.

“He didn’t commit any crime,” Yu said. “He just expressed his own opinions.”

Yahoo executives who testified before US Congress said they were legally obliged to divulge information about their users to the Chinese government and that they were unaware it would be used to convict dissidents.

The company also provided evidence in the case of poet and activist Shi Tao, who was sentenced to 10 years for leaking state secrets in 2005 after he sent an e-mail overseas containing information on a crackdown on democracy advocates.

Yahoo later apologised and in 2007 paid compensation to Wang’s wife after the World Organisation for Human Rights lodged a lawsuit that also named Shi.

Mainland authorities will suspend Wang’s political rights for two more years and “may continue to place restrictions” on him, Yu said, without giving specifics. Wang was not available for interview.

Yu refused to say how much money Yahoo paid in compensation.