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New evidence links Cisco to jailing and torture of Chinese

Asher Moses, SMH | Sept. 5, 2011
A human rights group suing Cisco for aiding the tracking and torture of people in China claims it has new evidence proving the tech giant tailored its technology to specifically enable these abuses.

“The Chinese police could even check remotely whether the suspect had built or contributed to a website in the last three months, access the suspect's surfing history and read his email.”

The Golden Shield Project – which makes up part of what is known as the Great Firewall of China – is used by the Chinese government to eliminate references to politically sensitive topics such as Tiananmen Square, 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo (jailed for 11 years for his political writings) and the Jasmine Revolution sweeping through the Middle East.

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter are also blocked.

The complaint claims that Cisco with its agents developed “antivirus software” that was used by Chinese officials to identify, block and track Falun Gong users and their internet activities.

It claims Cisco created new “first-of-their-kind features that Cisco suggested Chinese security officers use to facilitate the detection, apprehension and interrogation of Falun Gong, knowing that the interrogation of Falun Gong practitioners included and resulted in their torture and further persecution.”

Cisco allegedly marketed its security software as the only product capable of recognising “over 90 per cent of Falun Gong pictorial information”. It was able to do this by identifying and analysing internet activity that is unique to Falun Gong practitioners and then use these “digital signatures” to track them.

The company “specifically designed and customised the Golden Shield apparatus (including hardware and software) with the scale, complexity and capacity required to enable [Chinese officials] to monitor the Chinese population and identify, track, apprehend, interrogate, detain and torture Falun Gong practitioners”.

Without Cisco's help Chinese officials would not have as easily been able to “obtain sensitive information such as home and work addresses, purchases, financial information, contact with other Falun Gong members, past Falun Gong activities, IP addresses and family information (used for interrogation purpose)”.

The system was so far-reaching it enabled authorities to coordinate large-scale investigations to locate, track, apprehend and persecute Falun Gong members from anywhere in China without having to search homes, ransack their offices and homes for evidence or detain and interrogate them for more information, the suit claims.

Cisco has always claimed that it simply provided the equipment to China and denied taking part in training or customising its products in a way that would facilitate censorship or repression. It would not comment on the new claims filed this week other than to say it was assessing the material.

Daniel Ward, of US law firm Ward & Ward, who is running the other case on behalf of the Chinese political prisoners, said the new evidence was “huge”.

He said it “lays bare” Cisco's story that the leaked internal PowerPoint presentation used in Ward's case was an outlier to be ignored. Ward said he would be using the new evidence as part of his case.


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