Lawsuit accuses Cisco of aiding Chinese repression

Cisco Systems has designed a monitoring system to help track the Chinese government and ultimately eliminate the members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, according to a lawsuit filed against the group of network equipment maker.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San José, is based on Cisco supplies and helped maintain a surveillance system known as the “Golden Shield” that allowed the Chinese government to monitor and censor the Internet group activities. As a result of Cisco technology, Falun Gong members suffered illegal detention, torture and homicide, according to the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the religious group by Washington, DC, Human Rights Law Foundation.

The 52-page lawsuit names President and CEO, John Chambers, and two other executives as defendants and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and to prohibit illegal activity Cisco more.

A Cisco spokesman said there was “no basis” for the allegations in the complaint and that the company intended to defend the lawsuit “vigorously.”

“Cisco does not operate networks in China or elsewhere, or Cisco customize our products in ways that facilitate censorship or repression,” the representative said in a statement, adding that the company sells the same equipment in China that is sold in other nations in accordance with the regulations of the United States government.

Falun Gong is described in the claim as a peaceful religious movement of some 70 million to 100 million followers, founded in 1992 and uses the Internet as their main point of assembly for religious activities. However, the Chinese government began to see the group as a political threat and developed a plan to purge the Falun Gong from the country in 1999, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, alleges that Golden Shield – is described in marketing materials as Policenet Cisco – resulted in the arrest of up to 5,000 members of Falun Gong. Cisco “compete aggressively” for contracts to design the system’s Golden Shield “with full knowledge that was to be used for the suppression of Falun Gong religion,” according to demand.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 11 plaintiffs who are described as suffering torture and sometimes death at the hands of the Chinese government. The claim that the plaintiffs are eight anonymously to prevent “further abuse and retaliation human rights.” Three applicants are identified by name: Ivy Him, Canada; Guifu Liu, New York State, and Carlos Lee, an American citizen who traveled to China in 2003 and was arrested at the airport and tortured until his release 2006.