Nathan Weinberghas posted some excellent excerpts form today’s congressional hearings with various IT companies regarding thier actions in China. Here are some highlights:
Rep. Tom Lantos, ranking Democrat on the International Relations Committee, told the company officials that they had amassed great wealth and influence “but apparently very little social responsibility.”
“Your abhorrent actions in China are a disgrace,” Lantos said at the hearing. “I simply don’t understand how your corporate leadership sleeps at night.”
Rep. Chris Smith said the companies are “enabling dictatorship.”
“Cooperation with tyranny should not be embraced for the sake of profits,” said Smith, the Republican chairman of the House subcommittee on global human rights.
Rep. Tom Lantos: Can you say in English that you’re ashamed of what your company and what the other companies have done?
Google: Congressman, I actually can’t, I don’t think it’s fair for us to say that we’re ashamed.
Lantos, to Microsoft: Is your company ashamed?
Microsoft: We comply with legally binding orders whether it’s here in the U.S. or China.
Lantos: Well, IBM complied with legal orders when they cooperated with Nazi Germany. Those were legal orders under the Nazi German system…Do you think that IBM during that period had something to be ashamed of?
Microsoft: I can’t speak to that. I’m not familiar in detail with IBM’s activities in that period.
Lantos, to Yahoo: Are you ashamed?
Yahoo: We are very distressed about the consequences of having to comply with Chinese law…We are certainly troubled by that and we look forward to working with our peers.
Lantos: Do you think that individuals or families have been negatively impacted by some of the activities we have been told, like being in prison for 10 years? Have any of the companies reached out to these families and asked if you could be of any help to them?
Yahoo: We have expressed our condemnation of the prosecution of this person, expressed our views to the Chinese government…We have approached the Chinese government on these issues.
Lantos: Have you reached out to the family? I can ask it 10 more times if you refuse to answer it. You are under oath.
Yahoo: We have not reached out to the families.
Lawmakers were generally unmoved by this last argument. “If the secret police asked half a century ago where Anne Frank was hiding, would the correct answer be to hand over the information to comply with the local laws?” asked Rep. Chris Smith, the New Jersey Democrat and chair of the subcommittee on human rights.
Drawing parallels with IBM’s collaboration with Nazi Germany, Mr Smith said: “US technology companies today are engaged in a similar sickening collaboration, decapitating the voice of dissidents.” He added: “Women and men are going to the gulag and being tortured as a direct result of information handed over to Chinese officials.”
Google, the world’s most used search engine, breached its own “Don’t be Evil” policy stated at a 2004 stock offering, said Representative Christopher Smith, who heads the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations.
“It has become evil’s accomplice,” said Smith, a New Jersey Republican.