Cisco shareholders want answers to Cisco's role in repressive nations

Cisco investors at the company's annual shareholders' meeting this Thursday are expected to quiz Cisco about its business in repressive nations such as China and Saudi Arabia, according to Light Reading.

Investors want to know how Cisco plans to reduce the chances of its equipment being used to repress privacy of freedom of expression, reports the news site. It cites investment company Boston Common as leading the charge of investors wanting definitive answers to how Cisco plans to conduct business in those countries.

Cisco has made some high profile bids to make it big in those markets of late. This week, is reporting that Cisco is poised to win a $3 billion deal to develop a private fixed-line phone network in Saudi Arabia and earlier this month, Cisco announced it would inject $16 billion in investments in China.

Growing its emerging markets business is top priority for Cisco - the business grew 35% during its first fiscal quarter as sales to Cisco's top 25 U.S. customers declined. It will be interesting to see how Cisco will answer its investors concerns as it tries to rally their enthusiasm for Cisco's entry into the emerging markets.

Light Reading notes that although this issue has been discussed at shareholder meetings in the past, the topic is timely given the negative press surrounding Yahoo's role in helping China identify and jail a journalist in 2004. Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang - who is also a Cisco board member - apparently apologized to the journalist's mother and wife at a recent House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting about the case. Hopefully an apologetic Yang will be able to provide Cisco with valuable advice on how to approach this issue with its shareholders.

Is Cisco taking its responsibilities in repressive countries seriously enough or do you think Cisco's bid to provide those nations' citizens with broader access to the World Wide Web would help bring about democracy?

UPDATE: Update on how Cisco shareholders voted here

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