Chinese political prisoners are suing one of the world's largest technology companies, Cisco, for allegedly helping the Chinese Communist Party to monitor, censor and suppress the Chinese people.
Daniel Ward, of U.S. law firm Ward & Ward, has brought the case on behalf of Du Daobin, Zhou Yuanzhi, Liu Xianbin and 10 unnamed other people, claiming that Cisco provided the technology and expertise that the ruling party used to suppress its people.
He compared Cisco's actions to "IBM's behavior in Nazi Germany", Australia's Fairfax Media reports.
Cisco denies the allegations.
"Cisco has, for years now, knowingly aided and abetted the Chinese Communist Party's ongoing efforts to stifle the free speech and discourse of its citizenry," Mr Ward told Fairfax Media journalist Asher Moses.
"Dating back to the early 2000s, Cisco competed for contracts with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to help design, develop and implement the 'Golden Shield Project' - a rather Orwellian euphemism for the Chinese Communist Party's ongoing effort to monitor, track and censor all internet traffic into and out of China," The Sydney Morning Herald website, published by Fairfax, reports.
Du spent three years in jail, Zhou is a prisoner in his own home and Liu has served two months of a 10-year sentence, court documents say.
All three claim to have been tortured and abused over articles they published online.
Cisco helped the CCP build its Golden Shield - also known as the Great Firewall of China - and Policenet systems.
Cisco is accused of training Chinese engineers in how to use its technology to carry out surveillance of online activity and suppress dissident activity, SMH reports.
"With the assistance of Cisco, the CCP is now capable of detecting, identifying and tracking perceived threats to the CCP's power, and blocking 'harmful' websites," the complaint reads.
The case is being funded by the Laogai Research Foundation, whose executive director, Harry Wu, spent 19 years in Chinese labor camps but now lives in America.
"Cisco is a company that would do business with any partner so long as it turns a profit, even at the expense of our people's rights and freedoms," Wu said recently.
In a leaked internal Cisco presentation from 2002, seen by Fairfax Media, the company reveals how its products can address China's goals of "maintaining stability", "stop the network-related crimes" and "combat 'Falun Gong' evil religion and other hostiles".
The document also has a page discussing "Networked prisons and jails", describing how information about a suspect travels through Cisco's system from the time a suspect is first jailed to when they are released. The system links jails and police departments and Mr Wu argues it "directly aided in tracking down dissidents and keeping them under oppressive surveillance".
"They aren't just selling routers to a corrupt regime. They are selling the technology, training and software specifically designed to monitor, censor and suppress the Chinese people," said Ward.
"And they are doing so knowing full well how the CCP treats dissenters."
Cisco said it did not operate networks in China or elsewhere - it just provided the equipment - and denied it customized its products in any way that would facilitate censorship or repression, it reports.
"There is no basis for these allegations against Cisco, and we intend to vigorously defend against them," the company said in a statement.