Daobin v. Cisco – Cisco’s Legal Legerdemain Continues

Recently, Mark Chandler, Cisco Systems Inc.’s general counsel, posted a blog entry titled, “Cisco Supports Freedom of Expression, an Open Internet and Human Rights”. In that post, Mr. Chandler weaves a narrative of Cisco’s commitment to a “free” Internet and human rights. That narrative, while persuasive, is irreconcilable with Cisco’s history of aiding, abetting, and furnishing the tools of repression to the Chinese Communist Party. Like Cisco’s sponsorship of the Nobel Peace Prize and its oft repeated mantra of human rights support, this is yet another a masquerade concealing a far more disturbing reality.

While Cisco claims to support “free expression and open communication”, this commitment apparently extends only to the point that it does not interfere with Cisco’s profits. When there were billions of dollars to be made by streamlining and maximizing China’s effort to identify, persecute, imprison and torture political or religious minorities, Cisco jumped at the opportunity, aggressively marketing their products to the Chinese Communist Party.

In his blog post, Chandler states, “Cisco does not supply equipment to China that is customized in any way to facilitate blocking of access or surveillance of users.” Despite their posturing, internal Cisco documents have been released detailing the unique “Golden Shield” system that Cisco helped develop and implement for the Chinese Communist Party. This “Golden Shield”, brought to you in no small part by Cisco, enables not only the blocking of access to certain content, but provides the Chinese Communist Party the means to identify and locate internet users instantaneously. Furthermore, there is evidence that Cisco created an “Advanced Service Team” that was dedicated to training officials of the Chinese Communist Party to use Cisco products to these ends. This covert program by Cisco was outlined in their internal report titled, “The Golden Shield Project: Public Network Information Security Monitor System”, and detailed how Cisco could create a network that would aid the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to “combat Falun Gong, evil religion[s] and other hostiles”. Further documents from Cisco’s presentation at China’s 2002 Information Infrastructure Expo, which have been authenticated by Terry Alberstein, Cisco’s Director of Corporate Affairs for the Asia-Pacific, show the Cisco specifically marketed their products with the intent and knowledge they would be used to persecute free-thinkers, political activists, and other targets of oppression across China.

Cisco representatives have feigned innocence, claiming that the documents were mistakenly repeating official goals from the Chinese Communist Party and did not represent Cisco’s agenda. Through this amoral two-step, Cisco attempts to create a meaningless and dangerous distinction between directly aiding these actions by the PRC and selling products Cisco knows are being purchased to commit these crimes against humanity. Even if Cisco’s increasingly dubious claim regarding the lack of customization is supported, Cisco implicitly acknowledges that it sold these products with the knowledge that they would be used to persecute free-thinkers, political activists, and other targets of oppression. Cisco’s knowing complicity shocks the conscience. This type of willful indifference to egregious human rights violations has produced some of the most appalling humanitarian atrocities of our day. Just as with IBM’s collusion with the Nazi’s during the Holocaust, Siemens AG’s financing of the Sudanese genocide through oil revenue, and Ford Motor Companies assistance to the South African apartheid regime, Cisco’s “neutral” policy of selling products to the Chinese Communist Party unapologetically enables these crimes.

A company that publicly stands for free thought, liberty, and human rights should not be selling the shackles of oppression on the grounds that the chains might also have a less insidious use. This immoral pettifogging is unacceptable. The act of selling jumper cables and car batteries to a country that has told you it intends to electrocute political activists with them does not become less repugnant because they can also start a car.

As a result of anachronistic definitions, Cisco is able to maintain that they are in compliance with U.S. export restrictions, such as the Tiananmen Square sanctions, that prohibit the transfer crime control devices to China. We believe that the time has come for the courts, legislators and people of America to hold Cisco accountable for profiting from and enabling the mass persecution and torture of peaceful political activists by the Chinese Communist Party.

The Laogai Research Foundation Holds Press Conference at National Press Club re: Daobin v. Cisco, Accuses Cisco of Having “Two Faces”

Harry Wu, Laogai Research Foundation Executive Director, held a press conference Tuesday, June 7th, highlighting the recent lawsuit by Chinese political prisoners against Cisco Systems, Inc. and its senior management for providing the network equipment and training used to persecute Chinese citizens.  Daniel Ward of Ward & Ward, PLLC is counsel for the Chinese activists who have been monitored, imprisoned, and tortured by the Chinese Government.

Wu cited the duplicity of Cisco in sponsoring the Nobel Peace Prize Concert Program in Oslo and claiming to “help spread a message of hope” while simultaneously supplying the Chinese government with the equipment and training to monitor, intimidate, arrest, and persecute Chinese citizens, including the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner himself, political activist Liu Xiaobo.

Cisco’s CEO, John Chambers, attended the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Concert, while Liu, currently serving an 11-year prison sentence in an unknown location, was prevented from attending.

“In reality, Cisco is a company that would do business with any partner so long as it turns a profit, even at the expense of our people’s rights and freedoms,” Wu told the assembled members of the press.

Cisco and the named Cisco senior management are accused of “knowingly aiding and abetting the Chinese government’s Internet crackdown by providing technology and training for the construction and operation of the ‘Golden Shield Project,’ also known as ‘China’s Great Firewall.’”

The lawsuit is brought by Chinese activists who posted articles on http://www.observechina.net, a website maintained by the Laogai Reserch Foundation to promote democratic reform and increased freedoms for the Chinese people through articles published on the Internet.  This is the second lawsuit against Cisco for selling network and surveillance equipment to the Chinese government, a partnership that began in 2000.

Wu cited Cisco and Chinese websites, proclaiming the advanced police capabilities that the Golden Shield Project would enable.  Chinese media lauded the expansiveness of Cisco’s network, establishing an all-encompassing web of Public Security surveillance and control.  Leaked Cisco internal PowerPoint Presentations “provide just a glimpse of the company’s close cooperation with China’s Ministry of Public Security,” said Wu.  A 2001 PowerPoint included headings such as “Case illustration for the Police Network” and highlighted the requirements of China’s police force, including “national and internal security.”  A 2002 Cisco PowerPoint presentation mentioned “maintaining stability,” “stop network related crimes,” and “combat evil religion and other hostiles.”

Wu, himself a 19-year prisoner in the Laogai system, called for justice for the victims of political oppression at the hands of China’s Golden Shield.  “Now Cisco will have to answer these pressing questions about its dealings with China and be held accountable for its irresponsible business practices,” he concluded before taking questions.

Also in attendance at the press conference was plaintiff’s counsel, Daniel Ward, of Ward & Ward, PLLC, who fielded several questions from the press.

Cisco has dismissed the lawsuits as baseless.  “The lawsuits are inaccurate and entirely without foundation,” said Cisco president Mark Chandler in a statement.  “We have never customized our equipment to help the Chinese government—or any government—censor content, track Internet use by individuals or intercept Internet communications,” he said.

Cisco Being Sued For Aiding and Abetting in China’s Internet Crackdown

Harry Wu to Hold Press Conference at National Press Club
Tuesday, June 7th at 9:30 am

Washington, DC | June 6th, 2011 |

Today, with the financial support of the Laogai Research Foundation, three Chinese dissidents filed a lawsuit against Cisco Systems, Inc. in the United States District Court in Maryland. Mr. Du Daobin, Mr. Zhou Yuanzhi, and Mr. Liu Xianbin, represented by Daniel Ward of Ward & Ward, PLLC, are suing Cisco Systems, Inc. and several senior management personnel including: Thomas Lam, President of China Operations; Owen Chan, President of Asia Pacific Operations; Rick Justice, Executive Advisor; and John Chambers, Chairman and CEO. The defendants are accused of knowingly aiding and abetting the Chinese government’s internet crackdown by providing technology and training for the construction and operation of the “Golden Shield Project”, also known as “China’s Great Firewall”.

The plaintiffs are prolific writers who promote democratic reform and increased freedoms for the Chinese people through articles published on the internet. It was through network surveillance technology provided by Cisco that the Chinese Ministry of Public Security was able to track the Plaintiffs down for exercising their right to free speech. This led to their harassment, arbitrary detention and arrest, and physical, mental, and emotional torture and abuse. The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages for injuries and are requesting that the defendants be held accountable for their actions.

Since early 2000, Cisco has been involved with the construction of the “Golden Shield Project,” providing technology and training to the Ministry of Public Security which the Chinese government has used to monitor, track, and arrest political dissidents, practitioners of “illegal” religions, and anyone who posts content that threatens the stability of the Communist Party. This has affected countless victims, including artist and political activist Ai Weiwei, civil rights activist Chen Guangchen, and human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.

The most well-known victim, however, is the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. After helping to write Charter 08, a petition for political reform, and authoring numerous articles promoting democracy and human rights in China, Mr. Liu was rewarded not only with a Nobel Prize, but also with detention, arrest, deprivation of political rights, and a hefty 11-year prison sentence.

While Liu remained in prison during the awards ceremony, Cisco’s CEO John Chambers made it to Oslo, making known his company’s contribution to funding the Nobel Peace Prize Concert. Yet, without Cisco’s extensive cooperation, it would not have been so easy for China’s Ministry of Public Security to monitor the writer’s online activities and imprison him on the charge of “inciting subversion of state power.” Although Liu Xiaobo has no way of fighting for justice from inside his prison cell, through this lawsuit, plaintiffs Du, Zhou, and Liu hope to expose the extent of Cisco’s cooperation with the Ministry of Public Security.

Harry Wu, Laogai Research Foundation Executive Director, will hold a press conference tomorrow, June 7th, at 9:30 am at the National Press Club to discuss Cisco’s role in China’s internet crackdown and answer questions about this increasingly important issue.