Cisco Accused Of Aiding Repression Against Falun Gong Spiritual Group In Lawsuit

Posted May 23, 2011

Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) is being accused of designing a surveillance system that allow the government in China to monitor and suppress the Falun Gong spiritual group according to a lawsuit filed against the networking and voice company. The lawsuit was filed in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose.

The spiritual group claims that Cisco provided a surveillance system called the “Golden Shield.” The Golden Shield allegedly allowed the Chinese government track and censor the Internet activities of the group.

The Falun Gong members had suffered from false imprisonment, torture, and wrongful death as a result of the technology according to the lawsuit. The Human Rights Law Foundation in Washington D.C. filed the lawsuit on behalf of the group.

The 52-page lawsuit named Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers along with two other executives as the defendants. The group is seeking an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages. A spokesperson for Cisco said that there was “no basis” for the allegations and that the company plans to defend the lawsuit “vigorously.”

“Cisco does not operate networks in China or elsewhere, nor does Cisco customize our products in any way that would facilitate censorship or repression,” said the Cisco spokesperson.

The Falun Gong is a religious momvement that has about 70-100 million followers. The Falun Gong movement was founded in 1992 and uses the Internet as a point for congregation for religous activities. The Chinese government started to view the group as a politiiccal threat and wanted to prevent them from gaining power.

Allegedly the Golden Shield (known as Policenet in Cisco marketing materials) resulted in the arrest of about 5,000 Falun Gong members. The lawsuit said that Cisco “competed aggressively” for the contract to design the Golden Shield system while knowing that it would be used to suppress the Falun Gong religion.

The three plaintiffs in the case are Ivy He (Canada), Liu Guifu (New York), Charles Lee (American citizen that traveled to China in 2003 and was detained/tortured at the airport until 2006).