Although the news that the Chinese government has been using doctored copies of Skype to spy on its citizens is no surprise, the confirmation has cast doubt on the business methods of the eBay company and others doing business in China.

Chinese web veterans have long suspected that the version of Skype offered there by TOM-Skype, a Skype joint venture with a local firm, was filtering their text chats.

Doing too much

However, the revelation that it also stored conversations for future reference on TOM-Skype servers has only heightened the sense that Western firms are too compliant with the censorious Chinese government.

One Chinese blogger explained: "The problem with Skype is that they did more than what people expected. They over-satisfied the government."

Google and Yahoo too

Other Western companies in hot water over getting into bed with the Chinese include Google, which censors search results within China, and Yahoo.

The latter firm drew most criticism in 2004 when it unquestioningly handed over details of a user of its webmail service to Chinese authorities, leading to his arrest. Shi Tao was subsequently imprisoned for 10 years on charges of leaking state secrets.