May 21, 2011

  • Suit claims Cisco helped China repress religious group

    Suit claims Cisco helped China repress religious group

    5/20/2011 COMMENTS (0) 


    NEWYORK, May 20 (Reuters) – Members of a Chinese spiritual movement havesued Cisco Systems Inc for allegedly helping the Chinese CommunistParty track them down for persecution.

    The lawsuit, filed onThursday in California federal court, claimed Cisco and its executivesdesigned and implemented a surveillance system for the ChineseCommunist Party, knowing it would be used to root out members of theFalun Gong religion and subject them to detention, forced labor andtorture.

    The suit asserted several claims, including torture,crimes against humanity, wrongful death and unfair business practices.The religious practitioners are seeking compensatory and punitivedamages as well as an injunction blocking Cisco from future unlawfulactivity.

    Cisco responded on Friday that the allegations have “nobasis” and that it would vigorously fight the suit. “Cisco does notoperate networks in China or elsewhere, nor does Cisco customize ourproducts in any way that would facilitate censorship or repression,”the company said in a statement. Cisco sells the same equipment inChina as it sells in other nations, and all equipment complies withU.S. government regulations, the company said.

    The suit describedthe Falun Gong as a “peaceful religious practice” that originated in1992. China’s political leaders viewed the movement as a politicalthreat, and by 1999 leading members of the Chinese Communist Party haddevised a plan to purge the Falun Gong, according to the suit.

    Ciscoand its Chinese subsidiary “competed aggressively” to win the contractto design the surveillance system known as the “Golden Shield,” andcalled “Policenet” in internal Cisco documents, the suit said. Theplaintiffs claimed that Cisco had “full knowledge” that the purpose ofthe project was real-time monitoring of Falun Gong Internet activity sothat practitioners could be located and “forcibly converted.”

    Thesuit said the Golden Shield has led to the arrest of as many as 5,000Falun Gong practitioners. The sophisticated high-tech dragnet enabledpublic security officers to suppress the Falun Gong “because, unlikeall other groups in China, their religious practice was tied to theirInternet use,” the complaint said. According to the complaint, FalunGong practitioners almost always gather virtually at a central website.

    Theunnamed plaintiffs described being detained by Chinese authorities andtortured with physical beatings, electric shocks and sleep and fooddeprivation. They said no alternative remedy is available in China,where the alleged human rights abuses persist.

    The case is Doe I et al v. Cisco Systems Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 11-2449.

    ForDoe I et al: Kathryn Lee Crawford-Boyd and Rajika Shah of Schwarcz,Rimberg, Boyd & Rader; Terri Marsh and Brian Pierce of Human RightsLaw Foundation.

    For Cisco: Not immediately available.

    (Reporting by Terry Baynes)



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