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Yahoo accused again of aiding Chinese government

A media watchdog group on Wednesday accused Yahoo of turning over electronic records about a Chinese user that ultimately led to his eight-year prison sentence for "inciting subversion."

Reporters Without Borders, a French-based organization, said Yahoo's cooperation with authorities led to conviction of the user, identified as Li, a 35-year-old ex-civil servant from the southwestern province of Dazhou. The group said it obtained that information from Li's lawyer.

"We are unaware of this case, so therefore cannot comment on the accuracy of the report," Yahoo spokesperson Mary Osako said.

According to Reporters Without Borders, Li was arrested in August 2003 after criticizing "the corruption of local officials" in online discussion groups and articles and was sentenced that December, after the government received information from Yahoo's Hong Kong branch, the organization said.

Reporters Without Borders is the same group that accused Yahoo last fall of turning over records leading to the conviction of Shi Tao, a 37-year-old writer for the Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News), and his subsequent 10-year prison sentence. Yahoo at the time said it is obligated to comply with the laws of all nations in which it does business.

"When we did operate the Yahoo China business, we only responded with what we were legally compelled to provide and nothing more," Osako said.

The news came as Congress prepares to hold a second hearing next week about Internet censorship by China and reports of cooperation by American technology firms. Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Cisco representatives are scheduled to testify, though they all opted out of the first hearing. Members of Congress have said they are readying legislation that would restrict cooperation with governments that suppress free speech.