An American maker of Internet routing gear is in deep public relations trouble. It has been accused of customizing its technology to help Communist China track members of a religious dissident group calling itself “Falun Gong.” It has resulted in a lawsuit being filed last month in federal court in California.
The lawsuit alleges that the American Internet routing company marketed its equipment by developing special training manuals to teach the Chinese government how to locate dissidents. The lawsuit also alleges that those training manuals used inflammatory language borrowed from the era of the Maoist Revolution. Finally, it contends that the company helped design the “Golden Shield” firewall that has actually been used to censor political and religious speech in China and to track opponents of the Chinese government.
The lawsuit is of great interest to me because the American Internet company named as a defendant in the lawsuit is none other than Cisco Systems. In fact, the suit also individually names Cisco President John Chambers. Readers of this column are probably familiar with Chambers because he has also been named in my last three columns. Those columns have all explored the firing of American political and religious dissident Frank Turek. That firing occurred after Turek’s religious and political speech was tracked by a manager at Cisco who promptly had him excluded from the workplace under the Cisco policy of inclusion.
Evidence of the company’s activities in China first became public in 2004, in the book "Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal," by Ethan Gutmann. Since then, Cisco has disassociated itself from the marketing materials, stating that they were the work of a low-level employee. This argument is similar to the argument being made in conjunction with the Turek firing. In both cases, Cisco insists that individuals within the company are acting in a manner inconsistent with its deep commitment to tolerance of political and religious dissent.
The Falun Gong suit claims that additional Cisco marketing presentations prove that it promoted its technology to Communist China as being specifically capable of taking aim at dissident groups. The New York Times is reporting that, in one marketing slide, the goals of the Golden Shield are described as follows: To “douzheng evil Falun Gong cult and other hostile elements.” Douzheng is a Chinese term used specifically to describe the persecution of undesirable political and/or religious groups. It was widely used by the Communist Party in the Cultural Revolution led by Mao.