By all accounts, Mrs. Yu faces an uphill battle.
"The question that is really up in the air is how much you can associate a private corporation with the actions of a government," says Barry Carter, a Georgetown University Law Center professor who has written casebooks on international law.
In one pending case, known as the "apartheid lawsuit," up to 100 U.S. and international companies are being sued for selling equipment to South Africa's white dictatorship and lending it money. The case, currently on appeal, says corporations such as IBM helped the racist regime stay in power.
"The companies in a way are a proxy for the government because you can't sue the government," Mr. Carter adds.
Another wrench in Mrs. Yu's plans is the change in ownership of Yahoo's China subsidiary since Mr. Wang's arrest. In October 2005, Yahoo China was spun off from Yahoo Hong Kong in an acquisition by Chinese company Alibaba.com. Yahoo now owns a minority 40 percent share in the company.
This means that Yahoo has "no involvement in the collection or retention of data from Chinese users," Mr. Cullinan points out.
Mar 22, 2007
Yahoo to be sued by wife of Chinese dissident
Yu Ling wants to go after the company for providing the evidence that led to her husband's conviction.