Will Kiobel Grant the Privilege to Commit Human Rights Violations?

Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, 132 S.Ct. 472 (2011), has presented the United States Supreme Court with a number of questions regarding the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350 (“ATS”). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit refused to apply the ATS to Royal Dutch Petroleum. In Kiobel, the facts involved a foreign company acting in a foreign land against foreign plaintiffs – commonly referred to as a “foreign cubed” situation. The Solicitor General, in an Amicus brief, indicated that while the foreign cubed situation (such as is found in Kiobel) causes problems, there are certainly cases where a corporation should be liable under the ATS. In that Amicus brief, the Department of Justice argued that the Second Circuit’s 2-1 ruling is a proper application of the ATS in this particular case, but “insofar as the court addresses whether a corporation can be a proper defendant in a suit under the ATS, the judgment of the court of appeals should be reversed.” The Department of Justice argues that a liberal application of the Second Circuit’s ruling would be in error. In Du v. Cisco, the foreign cubed problem is not an issue. The Solicitor General’s warning regarding the overbreadth of the Second Circuit’s ruling should be heeded. Cisco is a U.S. corporation headquartered in California, which implicates issues irrelevant to the Dutch-based Royal Dutch Petroleum.

All interested parties are awaiting rehearing in the Kiobel case. On February 28, 2012, oral arguments were held in front of the Supreme Court.  A week later, the Supreme Court stated that it would hold additional arguments as to “[w]hether and under what circumstances the [ATS] allows courts to recognize a cause of action for violations of the law of nations occurring within the territory of a sovereign other than the United States.”

The Obama Administration has urged the courts to use caution in ATS cases, while also acknowledging that the Second Circuit’s position is too broad. The present issue of “extraterritorial application” to foreign corporations has put the Executive Branch on alert, fearing that Kiobel, as well as future cases, could have ramifications throughout the political and foreign policy spectrums of the United States. While President Obama has repeatedly supported ATS application to corporations, his administration has asked “to close the U.S. courts to most lawsuits involving claims that a foreign corporation helped a foreign government engage in human rights abuses in that country.”

Given its recent opinions, it would be inconsistent for the Supreme Court to grant corporations the privilege to avoid ATS liability. Just one month ago, in American Tradition Partnership Inc. v. Bullock, 567 U. S. ____ (2012) (reaffirming Citizens United v. FEC, 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010)), the Supreme Court held that corporations have the same legal status as people under the First Amendment. If corporations are to be afforded legal benefits as individuals, they should be saddled with the same legal burdens.

As an American corporation, Cisco should have no special privilege to commit human rights violations under the ATS when a private citizen would be liable for the same action. Cisco, as a corporation operating under and availing itself of the laws and protections of the United States, should be accountable to U.S. courts for its actions.

If you have any information regarding Cisco’s ongoing support for the Chinese Communist Party’s continued oppression of its citizens, please do not hesitate to contact Daniel Ward. Any such communications will be kept confidential.

Let Cisco Systems know that their continued and knowing support of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to violate the human rights of peaceful political dissidents like Du Daobin, Zhou Yuanzhi, and Liu Xianbin will no longer be tolerated. Contact your elected representatives — let them know how you feel. Finally, if you haven’t already done so, sign the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s petition – Tell Cisco: Stop helping China abuse human rights!.

China’s Latest Internet Crackdown

The news spread rapidly this weekend: China was conducting a massive internet crackdown to suppress online “rumors” of political unrest within China’s Communist Party, including posts that military vehicles had entered the streets of Beijing.  As described by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and the BBC, to name a few, China’s latest censorship attempt involved temporarily preventing the nation’s hundreds of millions of internet users from being able to post comments on the nation’s two largest “Twitter-like” microblogging operators, Sina Corp. and Tencent Holdings Ltd.  In addition, a reported six people were detained and sixteen websites were shutdown as part of the crackdown effort.

Why such a drastic move? As the Director of a Chinese media website told the Detroit Free Press, the crackdown was intended to “send[] a signal to the Internet companies and users that the government is watching you.”  More specifically, the censorship and detentions apparently intended to quell rumors of a coup, sparked by the sudden removal of Bo Xilai, a high-profile Chinese official who was, until recently, favored to join the top echelon of Chinese political power. As reported by Time, however, “Bo’s rise was derailed last month when a key deputy, former police chief and Chongqing vice mayor Wang Lijun, made a surprise visit to a U.S. consulate. Wang spent an evening at the consulate and was then detained by state security officers upon leaving. Wang has also been removed from his official post.”

The bigger question is whether the crackdown was successful.  Not exactly, according to many who have suggested that it may have resulted in exactly the opposite intended result due to the intense media coverage.  After all, “What is the best way to stop ‘rumors’?, Zhang Xin, one of China’s most prominent real estate developers, asked the 3-million-plus followers of her Sina blog.  It is transparency and openness.  The more you don’t allow speech, the more rumors there will be.”

As is seen in Du v. Cisco, Cisco supports and profits from the Chinese Communist Party’s oppressive censorship of its citizens.  If you have additional information regarding this ongoing support by Cisco, please do not hesitate to contact Daniel Ward.  Any such communications will be kept confidential.

Let Cisco Systems know that their continued and knowing support of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to violate the human rights of peaceful political dissidents like Du Daobin, Zhou Yuanzhi, and Liu Xianbin will no longer be tolerated. Contact your elected representatives— let them know how you feel.  Finally, if you haven’t already done so, sign the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s petition – Tell Cisco: Stop helping China abuse human rights!

 

Partner or Collaborator? Corporate Counsel Magazine on Cisco’s Relationship with China

The November issue of Corporate Counsel Magazine contains an interesting article on Cisco’s relationship with China, aptly titled “Partner or Collaborator?  Cisco discovers the perils of doing business in China.

The article addresses both the Du v. Cisco and Doe v. Cisco cases, and Cisco’s muted response to the accusations that have been made and substantial evidence support our clients’ claims.  Daniel Ward is quoted extensively about Cisco’s actions and Du v. Cisco:

The writers are represented by Daniel Ward, a partner at Ward & Ward in Washington, D.C., who filed the suit in federal district court in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This wasn’t just Cisco ignorantly selling routers to an oppressive regime and saying, ‘Gee, let’s hope for the best,’” says Ward. “This is them actively marketing themselves as an entity that could help in the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to oppress dissidents.”

Attorney Ward’s goal is changing the way Cisco and other companies weigh market opportunities. China “is seeking American technological know-how to crush dissent, and those American technology companies know it, but the draw of profits is irresistible to them,” he says.

He believes Yahoo made serious changes as a result of being sued. He hopes the suit against Cisco yields similar results. With Cisco, he says, “our goal is to make that cost-benefit analysis shift.”

As we have stated previously, there is no doubt there is more evidence out there regarding Cisco’s ongoing support of the Chinese Communist Party’s continued oppression of its citizens.  If you have any information, please do not hesitate to contact Daniel Ward.  Any such communications will be kept confidential.

Let Cisco Systems know that their continued and knowing support of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to violate the human rights of peaceful political dissidents like Du Daobin, Zhou Yuanzhi, and Liu Xianbin will no longer be tolerated.  Contact your elected representatives — let them know how you feel.  Finally, if you haven’t already done so, sign the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s petition– Tell Cisco: Stop helping China abuse human rights!.

Excellent Reuters article on Du v. Cisco and Doe v. Cisco

Sui-Lee Wee has written an excellent and comprehensive article, Insight: Cisco suits on China rights abuses to test legal reach, that provides substantial background and analysis of Cisco’s actions in China, and the legal issues surrounding the current litigation.  In addition to quotes from Daniel Ward (re: Du v. Cisco) and Terri Marsh (re: Doe v. Cisco), the article also quotes Du Daobin and Zhou Yuanzhi, two of the Plaintiffs in Du v. Cisco.  In the article Du states the following:

Du, 48, who was jailed for posting articles under a pseudonym on the Internet criticizing the Chinese Communist Party’s rule, said Western technology companies should not cooperate with a government that violates civil rights.

“This kind of cooperation hurts us as well as the companies’ business,” he said. “The publication of our articles are closely monitored and once they’re published, we will end up in jail.”

Du said he was interrogated by police in early August about the lawsuit, but added that the case was “not only for myself, but also for the freedom of every individual in China, to put an end forever to China’s ‘literary jail.’

As we have stated previously, there is no doubt there is more evidence out there regarding Cisco’s ongoing support of the Chinese Communist Party’s continued oppression of its citizens.  If you have any information, please do not hesitate to contact Daniel Ward.  Any such communications will be kept confidential.

Let Cisco Systems know that their continued and knowing support of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to violate the human rights of peaceful political dissidents like Du Daobin, Zhou Yuanzhi, and Liu Xianbin will no longer be tolerated.  Contact your elected representatives — let them know how you feel.  Finally, if you haven’t already done so, sign the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s petition– Tell Cisco: Stop helping China abuse human rights!.

NYT reports new evidence of Cisco’s knowing aid to China re: Golden Shield

A Friday evening New York Times article reported that new evidence has been discovered that Cisco Systems, Inc. specifically tailored its products for use by the Chinese Communist Party to monitor and apprehend its citizens.

The Human Rights Law Foundation, an advocacy group involved in Doe v. Cisco, an Alien Tort Statute lawsuit brought against Cisco on behalf of a number of Falun Gong practitioners, announced Friday that it has new evidence that Cisco Systems, Inc. specifically tailored its products for use by the Chinese Communist Party to monitor and apprehend Falun Gong practitioners.

This evidence, if authenticated, would eviscerate Cisco’s position (as stated by their General Counsel, Mark Chandler) that  “Cisco does not supply equipment to China that is customized in any way to facilitate blocking of access or surveillance of users.”  and that “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.”

There is no doubt there is more evidence out there regarding Cisco’s ongoing support of the Chinese Communist Party’s continued oppression of its citizens.  If you have any information, please do not hesitate to contact Daniel Ward.  Any such communications will be kept confidential.

Let Cisco Systems know that their continued and knowing support of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to violate the human rights of peaceful political dissidents like Du Daobin, Zhou Yuanzhi, and Liu Xianbin will no longer be tolerated.   Contact your elected representatives, let them know how you feel.  Finally, if you haven’t already done so, sign the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s petition– Tell Cisco: Stop helping China abuse human rights!.

Electronic Frontier Foundation call to action re: Du Daobin

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has taken up the cause of protecting Du Daobin, Zhou Yuanzhi, Liu Xianbin and other Chinese political activists in their efforts to prevent American technology companies (such as Cisco Systems, Inc.) from aiding the Chinese Communist Party in their efforts to suppress political speech.

As I have previously written, Du Daobin was interrogated by Chinese officials this week about his involvement in Daobin v. Cisco, the Human Rights lawsuit currently pending in U.S. District Court in Maryland.  We are very concerned for Mr. Du’s safety, as well as the safety of Zhou Yuanzhi, and Liu Xianbin, the other Plaintiffs named in Daobin v. Cisco.  Their heroic willingness to stand against oppression and injustice, as seen in their willingness to be personally and publicly named as Plaintiffs in Daobin v. Cisco, has brought unwanted attention from the Chinese Communist Party.  The more visible this issue is, the safer they become.  Please take a moment to review the EFF Action Alert and take action.

Our collective action and attention to this matter can prevent any further harm to Du Daobin, Zhou Yuanzhi, and Liu Xianbin.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you,

Dan Ward