Why reform doesn’t happen

Here’s a story about a Chinese couple filing a lawsuit in a US District Court against Yahoo for the company having provided information that Chinese authorities used to sentence the man to prison (for his writings online). I don’t see what can come from this other than a symbolic gesture. If imprisoning and torturing people for expression of ideas is the law in China, and if United States trade law honors Chinese law as I believe it does (somebody with more legal expertise than myself correct me if I am wrong here), then what case do they have?

Former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky in his famous book The Case For Democracy argued that to encourage reform in oppressive states the West should make relations with those states dependent on the degree to which they honor basic human rights. In so doing we utilize one great advantage a free society enjoys over an oppressive one–it is invariably more prosperous. The reasoning is that the oppressive society needs the technology and assistance of the free society more than the free society needs anything the oppressive society has to offer.

Obviously the West lacks any will whatsoever to carry out Sharansky’s idea, as one can plainly see from looking at relations with China, or Saudi Arabia, or hell, Iran. Read this Opinion Journal piece on EU dealings with Iran and ask yourself what incentive the Ayatollahs have to ever change their ways.

4 responses to “Why reform doesn’t happen

  1. This is way off topic, but I’m asking you to consider investigating this story.

    This past week, China has stepped up a campaign targetting Christians and forcing Christian women to have abortions.

    I know that many times we don’t see eye to eye, but I thought this would be a topic of interest.


  2. Thanks. I was aware of that actually, and yes, it is disgusting and appalling. Even “pro-choice” people can’t possibly condone it since there is no choice involved.

    Oh, I think we see eye to eye far more often than not. But at any rate abortion is one social issue which I do have a strong opinion about. In fact, when Paul Johnson said “what slavery was to the 19th century abortion is to our times” (paraphrased) I couldn’t disagree.

  3. Hi Hydralisk,

    As far as I know, when an entity chooses to do business in a foreign state it must abide by the rules of that state.

    So, Yahoo China is not bound by the rules that Yahoo USA must follow.

    Therefore, you’re absolutely correct, that Chinese couple has no case.


  4. I think David is probably right. First off, a company doing business in a foreign country is bound by the laws of that country, but that does NOT mean that company cannot at the very same time be violating the laws of its home country, such as the United States. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is an excellent example of a US law that can be violated overseas without (perhaps) violating the law of the country overseas where the violation takes place.

    What I keep wondering about they Yahoo case though is how it is that Yahoo’s US company can be sued when it appears it was not that company involved in China. It was a subsidiary. Does anyone know the answer to this?

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