Does Yahoo! Aid in Human Rights Violations?

The Internet search engine Yahoo! has complied with demands from the totalitarian Communist government of China not only that it censor its search engine results but that it aid the government in tracking down any dissidents.

The human rights group Reporters Without Borders says it has obtained a copy of the verdict against Jiang Lijun, a dissident jailed in 2003, which shows that Yahoo Holdings in Hong Kong aided police in identifying the man.

By providing Chinese authorities with confirmation that an e-mail account had been used by both Lijun and another pro-democracy activist.

It's just another in a string of accusations that U.S.-owned IT companies doing business in China are playing a role in China's continued crackdown on dissidents.

Activists Target Yahoo!

In early April, Reporters Without Borders visited Yahoo's Silicon Valley headquarters to confront executives there.

"We want them to see that they helped the Chinese police to jail people, human beings," said activist Julien Pain, head of the Paris-based Internet and Freedom desk for Reporters Without Borders.

Pain and other activists stood outside Yahoo! headquarters, and on a small portable television showed any passers-by a video.

On the video, the brother of Li Zhi, a journalist jailed by the Chinese government for exposing government corruption anonymously on an Internet message board, makes an angry accusation.

"Li is in prison because of you," he says.

Li's brother says that Yahoo! helped the Chinese government trace Li's posting back to him.

"He already had hepatitis and now he has pleurisy because the poor working conditions in prison," Li's brother says in the video in Chinese, with English subtitles. "Our family is broken. All this happened because of your company."

The video also features Chinese attorney Mo Shaoping, who represents Chinese journalist Shi Tao, imprisoned for e-mailing to pro-democracy Web sites censorship instructions from the Chinese government on, for example, the proper way to cover the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Mo says Yahoo! helped the Chinese government trace those e-mails to Shi Tao's computer. Shi's case, he said, is not unique.

"Yahoo! didn't only give information about Shi Tao. It has done the same to many others," Mo says.

"I have names, but I cannot reveal them yet," Mo says. "Yahoo! could refuse to collaborate if it recognizes that there is a contradiction between Chinese law and international human rights standards."

Just a Matter of Following Local Laws?

Yahoo! would not comment on these charges to ABC News. Its general response has been that, like other Internet companies that do business in China, it has to respect local laws in the burgeoning Chinese market.

That answer did not go over well at a recent congressional hearing, where Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., a survivor of the Holocaust, accused the company of complicity in human rights violations.

"Your abhorrent activities in China are a disgrace," Lantos said to Michael Callahan, Yahoo!'s general counsel.

After Callahan appeared to evade a question on whether Yahoo! had reached out to the families of any Chinese dissidents it had helped the government jail, Lantos lost his patience.

"I can ask you 10 more times if you refuse to answer it," Lantos said. "You are under oath. Have you reached out to the families?"

"We have not reached out to the families," Callahan said.

Yahoo's policy of complying with the Chinese government remains in place, and it remains unclear how many of the 80 journalists and "cyber-dissidents" in Chinese prisons are there because Yahoo helped the government identify them.

Still the international non-profit group Human Rights in China says the issue is a chance to draw attention to the plight of dissidents in China.

"Here's an opportunity to exercise some leadership in a very transparent and public way and show their support for the many Chinese lawyers, Chinese journalists, Chinese and others being persecuted," said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China.

Hom claims the opportunity to do business in China has trumped some technology companies' willingness to stand up for human rights.

"It reflects the enormous seductive power of a Chinese market of 1.3 billion people and looking at it in a short sighted way," she said. "If you're in the information market, it's in your interest to have an educated and informed citizenry."

"If you don't have that, it's not a market for information."

ABC News' Jake Tapper and Avery Miller contributed to this report.