China dissident jailed on Yahoo info is freed

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(AP) BEIJING - A Chinese dissident imprisoned for 10 years on a state subversion conviction supported by evidence from Web portal Yahoo was released early Friday after completing his term, his wife said.

The American Internet company drew strong condemnation from U.S. lawmakers and rights advocates for cooperating with Chinese authorities in prosecuting dissidents and a well-known journalist. The company later apologized and settled a lawsuit with the families involved for an undisclosed amount.

Wang Xiaoning's wife, Yu Ling, said in a phone interview that her husband had been released before dawn Friday by the Beijing No. 2 Prison. She had been earlier told she could meet Wang at the prison gate but he was released several hours early and taken to their home.

Yu said the conditions of his release meant he could not speak to the media. She said Wang appeared to be in good health, but would go for a medical check soon.

"We're happy that the family is together again," Yu said. The couple has a son.

Wang was detained in September 2002 and later sentenced for "incitement to subvert state power" — a vaguely defined charge frequently used to punish political critics. Wang distributed pro-democracy writings by e-mail and through Yahoo Groups.

A former engineer in China's weapons industry, Wang had been detained previously for his political activities following the June 4, 1989, military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Rights groups said that passages from writings cited at his trial in 2003 included: "Without a multiparty system, free elections and separation of powers, any political reform is fraudulent."

A lawsuit Wang and others filed in the United States showed that Yahoo's wholly owned subsidiary based in Hong Kong gave police information linking Wang to his anonymous e-mails and other political writings he posted online.

Yahoo could not immediately be reached for comment.

The case raised questions about whether Internet companies should cooperate with governments that deny freedom of speech and frequently crack down on journalists. It also has been the subject of congressional hearings in the United States, where lawmakers accused the company of collaborating with an oppressive communist regime.

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