Cisco has denied claims in a lawsuit that the company helped the Chinese government to hunt down members of the Falun Gong movement online.
Chief executive John Chambers and other senior executives are named in the lawsuit, which claims that Cisco representatives have worked with the Chinese government since 2007 to build and maintain the IT systems which can censor and track internet use, known as the Golden Shield.
Terri Marsh, a lawyer for the Human Rights Law Foundation in Washington, told the The New York Times that the group had detailed information about Cisco's role in the design of Chinese information centres that host Falun Gong database applications connected to network surveillance and tracking systems. This information will be disclosed in court, Marsh said.
The lawsuit also claims that the group has marketing material proving that Cisco promoted the use of its systems to find "evil Falun Gong cult and other hostile elements".
Eleven Falun Gong members are identified as being harmed a result of these IT systems, and at least one is reported dead. Others are in prison, while some have been tortured and some have disappeared.
"There is no basis for these allegations against Cisco, and we intend to vigorously defend against them. Cisco does not operate networks in China or elsewhere, nor does Cisco customise our products in any way that would facilitate censorship or repression," Cisco told V3.co.uk in a statement.
"Cisco builds equipment to global standards which facilitate the 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."
Representatives from Cisco, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo were called before a US Congressional Committee in 2006 to explain their role in building the Golden Shield network for the Chinese government. All the companies maintained that their dealings with China were a "benefit".
The legal case comes as the Golden Shield system is attracting extensive scrutiny and protest. Last week the academic behind the creation of much of the system was reportedly hit by a shoe thrown by a protestor.
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