Cisco sued by Chinese political prisoners for “assisting government monitoring”

Networking giant Cisco is being sued by Chinese political prisoners for allegedly providing the Chinese government with the technology and training to effectively monitor, censor and surpress citizens, SMH reports.

The case has been brought by US law firm Ward Ward on the behalf of Du Daobin, Zhou Yuanzhi, Liu Xianbin and 10 unnamed others, likening the company’s actions to “IBM’s behaviour in Nazi Germany”.

Ward told Australian reporters:

“Cisco has, for years now, knowingly aided and abetted the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing efforts to stifle the free speech and discourse of its citizenry.

“Dating back to the early 2000s, Cisco competed for contracts with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to help design, develop and implement the ‘Golden Shield Project’ – a rather Orwellian euphemism for the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing effort to monitor, track and censor all internet traffic into and out of China.”

The court documents state that Mr Du was sentenced to three years in jail, Mr Zhou put on house arrest and Mr Liu has served two months of a 10-year sentence. All three of the men have claimed they have been abused and subjected to torture over articles that they published online.

Cisco has rejected the claims, calling them “baseless” but has not yet responded to questions which arose after an internal company presentation was leaked. The presentation, from 2002, reveals how Cisco’s products could address China’s goals of “maintaining stability”, “stop the network-related crimes” and “combat ‘Falun Gong’ evil religion and other hostiles”.

The company has said that it helped the Chinese Communist Party build its “Golden Shield” and “Policenet” systems.

Cisco is accused of training Chinese engineers how to use the technology and then carry out surveillance on Chinese Internet users and surpress their activity.

“With the assistance of Cisco, the CCP is now capable of detecting, identifying and tracking perceived threats to the CCP’s power, and blocking ‘harmful’ websites,” the complaint reads.

Cisco has faced two previous lawsuits in China, with the company accused of amending its technology to assist with the tracking of religous groups in the country. Mark Chandler, SVP, General Counsel and Secretary, said at the time:

The lawsuits are inaccurate and entirely without foundation – and in fact they simply recycle the identical allegations that were raised by the Falun Gong religious group three years ago, which were extensively reported at the time and discussed at a Congressional hearing, including reference to the same Chinese government statements about their goals for technology.   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.

Let’s start with the practices Cisco follows.  As stated above, we fundamentally believe in and adhere to global standards.  This is vitally important in ensuring the world stays connected because if products are not interoperable, the Internet loses some of its incredible power.

The company may be forced to address the new lawsuit brought in the US but has not issued a comment as yet.