Current Cases


Doe v. Cisco Systems, Inc.

Detailed Case Summary and Documents

Doe v. Cisco Systems, Inc. is a case currently being litigated in the Northern District of California against Cisco Systems, Inc., a major American network technology corporation. Falun Gong believers filed the case based on their subjection to serious human rights abuses in China through the use of the “Golden Shield” and especially its anti-Falun Gong systems. The Golden Shield is an unprecedented network security system used for the widespread censorship, surveillance, identification, tracking, apprehension, and torture of Chinese dissidents. Cisco has been the major provider of network security “solutions” in China since the late 1990’s.

In the mid to late 1990s, Communist Party and officials of China’s Ministry of Public Security proposed a “Golden Shield” project to include technological capabilities for China’s security forces. At the same time, the Chinese Communist Party desired to upgrade the technological capabilities of Chinese security to single our various dissident groups for persecution, including Falun Gong, then well known as its “number one” enemy. The design of the Golden Shield, prepared by Cisco in San Jose, reflects these goals in two major platforms: the “Targeting Criminal Activities Platform” that covers all systems intended for ordinary criminal justice activity; and the “Maintenance of Social Stability Platform” that includes a subsystem for Tibetans, Uyghurs, democracy activities and human rights lawyers, et cetera. Most prominent among these systems are the anti-Falun Gong systems.

Plaintiffs allege that the anti-Falun Gong systems designed, serviced and implemented by Cisco were used by Chinese security and Communist Party officers to wrongfully detain, torture and harm them to force them to relinquish their practice of their religion in China. They further allege that these crimes could not have occurred without the design of the Golden Shield by Cisco and the assistance Cisco provided through its services, upgrades, and implementation.

Complaints that Cisco is complicit in these abuses have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears, and Cisco continues to work with Chinese security officials to this day. Litigation under the Alien Tort Statute is one of the few remaining tools to ensure Cisco is held accountable for its conduct.


After briefings and a March 21, 2014 hearing, the district court granted the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss on September 5, 2014. Plaintiffs filed Notice of Appeal. On January 4, 2016, Plaintiffs-Appellants filed their Opening Brief and an Excerpted Record (ER), arguing that the Defendant has mischaracterized the pleading standard and Plaintiffs’ allegations; that Plaintiff-Appellants had adequately alleged aiding and abetting liability under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS); that Plaintiff-Appellants’ claims were not barred by the Kiobel presumption against extraterritoriality. Amicus curiae briefs were filed by Ambassador David Scheffer (see Amicus Curiae Brief of Ambassador David Scheffer), the Electronic Frontier (see Amicus Curiae Brief of Electronic Frontier); and Earth Rights and the Center for Constitutional Rights (see Amicus Curiae Brief of Earthrights and the Center for Constitutional Rights). The 9th Circuit Court heard oral arguments of the case on April 18, 2017. Before issuing their decision, the court ordered the suspension of the case pending the resolution the Supreme Court of the case Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC, No. 16-499, 2018 WL 1914663 (Apr. 28, 2018), and then the possible Supreme Court proceedings in Doe v. Nestle, No. 17-55435.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe, 141 S. Ct. 1931 (2021), the 9th Circuit requested supplemental briefing from the parties. On July 22, 2021, Plaintiffs-Appellants filed a supplemental brief explaining that unlike in Nestlé, their case can proceed because their complaint contains detailed allegations as to how Cisco employees in the United States knowingly designed, developed, and customized the system used to facilitate their abuse. On August 12, 2021, Defendants-Appellees filed their supplemental brief.

The 9th Circuit held a second oral argument on October 20, 2021.  A decision is pending.


  District Court
Sep 18 2013 Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint
Nov 4 2013 Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
Dec 24 2013 Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
Feb 10 2014 Defendants’ Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss
Sep 5 2014 District Court Opinion Granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
  Appellate Court
Jan 4 2016 Plaintiffs’ Opening Brief
Nov 1 2016 Ambassador Scheffer’s Amicus Brief
Nov 1 2016 Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Amicus Brief
Nov 1 2016 EarthRights’s Amicus Brief
Mar 2 2016 Defendants’ Answering Brief
Apr 15 2016 Plaintiff-appellants’ Reply Brief
Apr 28 2016 Plaintiff’s Post-hearing Letter
July 22 2021 Plaintiffs-Appellants Supplementary Brief
Aug 12 2021 Supplemental Brief of Defendants-Appellees


Huffington Post by Katrina Lantos

‘The Hijacked Potential of China’s Internet’ by He Qinglian (PDF format)

‘China’s Golden Shield: Corporations and the Development of Surveillance Technology’ by Greg Walton (PDF Format)

‘Helping Big Brother Go High Tech’ from Business Week

‘The Net Effect’ by Steven Cherry

‘Cool Tools for Tyrants’ by Derek Bambauer

‘China: E-Repression leads to dramatic rise in those imprisoned for expressing opinions online’ from Amnesty International

‘The Connection Has Been Reset’ by James Fallows

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