Cisco is being hit by a lawsuit alleging it is helping suppress dissent in China.
The suit was filed last week in the U.S. Federal District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose as case number 11-2449. The law suit represents the Falun Gong, which is a group banned inside of China. According to the complaint, Cisco is complicit in helping the government of China in building Internet surveillance systems that have been used to silence the Falun Gong. Cisco denies the claims.
“There is no basis for these allegations against Cisco, and we intend to vigorously defend against them,” Cisco representatives said in a statement sent to InternetNews.com.
Though Cisco sells and develops products in China, it denied it is in any way complicit with attempts by the Chinese government to limit free speech.
“Cisco does not operate networks in China or elsewhere, nor does Cisco customize our products in any way that would facilitate censorship or repression,” Cisco stated. “Cisco builds equipment to global standards which facilitate free exchange of information, and we sell the same equipment in China that we sell in other nations worldwide in strict compliance with US government regulations.”
Cisco and China
The new suit isn’t the first time that Cisco has faced questions about its involvement with the Chinese government.
At Cisco’s 2008 Annual General Meeting, Cisco shareholders brought the issue of Cisco’s involvement in China to the forefront with a shareholder vote. The shareholder groups included Harrington Investments and Boston Common Asset Management. Boston Common Asset Management asked that Cisco produce a clear and transparent report that identifies the efforts that the company is undertaking to ensure that its technology isn’t used to stifle human rights. The 2008 motion was denied as the majority of shares voted against the proposal.
At the time, Cisco CEO John Chambers noted that Cisco was actively involved in improving quality of life in China though multiple efforts.
“Is there anyone in this room that doesn’t want us to help people in China, and to do it in a way that will also instill the loyalty of individuals in that country?” Chambers said in 2008. “This is how you change things.”