Internet Freedom Principles vs. Employee Protections

by on January 22, 2010 · 6 comments

Following up from Adam’s post on Hillary Clinton’s speech on global Internet freedom, here’s an interesting blog post from Nora von Ingersleben at ACT. Nora was the lucky (and only) person at the event to ask a question to our Secretary of State. Her question centered upon the practical–while it is well-and-good that companies should “do the right thing”, there are real-world consequences when a company doesn’t comply with a legal request. How can off-shore employees be protected?

QUESTION: Nora von Ingersleben with the Association for Competitive Technology. Madame Secretary, you mentioned that U.S. companies have to do the right thing, not just what is good for their profits. But what if I am a U.S. company and I have a subsidiary in China and the Chinese Government is coming after my guys for information and, you know, we have resisted but now my guys have been taken to jail, my equipment is being hauled away. In that situation, what can the State Department do? Or what will the State Department do?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we obviously speak out on those individual cases. And we are, as I said, hoping to engage in a very candid and constructive conversation with the Chinese Government. We have had a positive year of very open discussions with our Chinese counterparts. I think we have established a foundation of understanding. We disagree on important issues with them. They disagree on important issues with us. They have our perspective; we have our perspective. But obviously, we want to encourage and support increasing openness in China because we believe it will further add to the dynamic growth and the democratization on the local level that we see occurring in China.

  • http://blog.infinitemonkeysblog.com Jim_Lakely

    Not a terrible answer from Clinton, but as expected. A bunch of nothing in response to a specific question: What would the US do if the Chinese arrested an American for trumped up “Internet crimes”? The answer is apparently … not much beyond “speaking out.”

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Well, to be fair, the question didn't specify whether the employee (“my guys”) arrested was an American or Chinese citizen. In context, it would make more sense for HRC to assume Nora was asking about the Chinese government arresting one of its own citizens who happened work for a foreign company. Obviously, that's a bad thing, but… what exactly would you want the US Government to do in such a case? Impose sanctions? Send gunboats up the Yangtze again?

  • http://blog.infinitemonkeysblog.com Jim_Lakely

    If it was ME? Yes. Gunboats would be nice.

    Ok. I suppose I kind of over-reacted. A little. I just have a long-standing opposition to and anger about the Chinese government's brutal oppression. And I tire of the diplomatic happy-talk that passes for America “speaking out” against it.

    Instead of saying she'd “speak out” against the above scenario, how about saying the United States would find that situation “unacceptable” and a move that would “do harm” to our “foundation of understanding.”

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Well, to be fair, the question didn't specify whether the employee (“my guys”) arrested was an American or Chinese citizen. In context, it would make more sense for HRC to assume Nora was asking about the Chinese government arresting one of its own citizens who happened work for a foreign company. Obviously, that's a bad thing, but… what exactly would you want the US Government to do in such a case? Impose sanctions? Send gunboats up the Yangtze again?

  • http://blog.infinitemonkeysblog.com Jim_Lakely

    If it was ME? Yes. Gunboats would be nice.

    Ok. I suppose I kind of over-reacted. A little. I just have a long-standing opposition to and anger about the Chinese government's brutal oppression. And I tire of the diplomatic happy-talk that passes for America “speaking out” against it.

    Instead of saying she'd “speak out” against the above scenario, how about saying the United States would find that situation “unacceptable” and a move that would “do harm” to our “foundation of understanding.”

  • MikeRT

    At that point, I think the best recommendation would be “liquidate your holdings, surreptitiously move your equipment out of the country and give your former Chinese employees a generous severance package” in an account that is not based in the country, but still accessible to their families.

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