Cisco Won’t Face Claim it Abetted Torture in China

     SAN JOSE (CN) – A group of Chinese and U.S. citizens cannot continue with their lawsuit alleging that Cisco Systems abetted the torture of Falun Gong practitioners in China by collaborating with the government on a customized security system, a federal judge ruled.
     Falun Gong is a religion developed in China around 1992 with millions of adherents, many of whom have been subject to human rights abuses in China since the late 1990s, particularly at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.
     Members of the religion filed suit against Cisco, claiming that the company helped the Chinese government to develop and maintain “Golden Shield” technology. Among other things, the system is allegedly used to eavesdrop and intercept the communications of Falun Gong believers, detect and track their online communication, apprehend and torture members because of their religious beliefs, and ultimately suppress Falun Gong believers through human rights abuses against them.
     “Plaintiffs state that the Golden Shield is not an ordinary crime control system, but differs in scale, complexity, intelligence, and technological sophistication; the designs include individual features customized and designed specifically to find, track, and suppress Falun Gong integrated with dual or multi-purpose features specifically to enable the suppression of the religious group,” the ruling states.
     Such a system could not have been designed without Cisco knowing what it would be used for, the Falun Gong followers claimed, adding that the anti-Falun Gong objectives were outlined in Cisco internal reports and files.
     “Plaintiffs contend that without the Golden Shield, Chinese officers would not have been able to coordinate large-scale investigations, obtain sensitive information, locate, track, apprehend, interrogate, torture and persecute Falun Gong members from anywhere in China. According to plaintiffs, the Golden Shield provided the means by which all the plaintiffs were tracked, detained, and tortured,” the ruling states.
     The Falun Gong followers also asserted that the U.S. District Court had federal jurisdiction over their torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, crimes against humanity and other claims pursuant to the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and Torture Victims Protection Act.
     However, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila found that Cisco’s “creation of the Golden Shield system, even as specifically customized for Chinese authorities and even if directed and planned from San Jose, does not show that human rights abuses perpetrated in China against plaintiffs touch and concern the United States with sufficient force to overcome the ATS’s presumption against extraterritorial application.”
     A stronger showing is needed that tortious acts were planned or executed in the United States in order to overcome the presumption against extraterritoriality, Davila added.
     Furthermore, he wrote, plaintiffs’ allegations for aiding and abetting under the ATS “do not show that defendants’ conduct had a substantial effect on the perpetration of alleged violations against plaintiffs nor that they knew that their product would be used beyond its security purpose – the apprehension of individuals suspected of violating Chinese law through identifying, locating, profiling, tracking, monitoring, investigating and surveillance of such individuals – to commit the alleged violations of torture and forced conversion.
     “Even if defendants knew that the Golden Shield was used by Chinese authorities to apprehend individuals, including plaintiffs, there is no showing that defendants also knew that plaintiffs might then be tortured or forcibly converted,” Davila said, pointing out that the product produced by Cisco can be used for many crime-control purposes in China without permitting torture or other human rights abuses.

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