Censorship Paranoia: December 2011 Archives
By Calum MacLeod - USA TODAY
December 30, 2011
ZHENGZHOU, China - The electric acupuncture needles stung her scalp, and the drugs bloated her weight, gave her heart palpitations and brought on premature menopause.
But Wu Chunxia consented to the treatments at the psychiatric hospital because if she didn't, she knew she would be strapped to her bed and left vulnerable to assaults from violent inmates.
"It was worse than hell in there," says Wu, 37, of the Henan provincial psychiatric hospital in Xinxiang. "I feared I would be strangled at night by other patients."
Wu was not at the hospital for reasons of mental health. She was committed there in 2008 by the Chinese government for 132 days as punishment for protesting about local injustice to higher authorities.
The Communist Party does not acknowledge its mental facilities are used to silence critics, but according to numerous human rights groups and Chinese dissidents, China's Communist-led government has for decades incarcerated healthy people in mental wards to suppress dissent. In the past two years, wrongful confinement cases have sharply increased, says Liu Feiyue of Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch, a human-rights organization based in Suzhou.
The rise in confinements is greatest among petitioners -- the ordinary people who complain about local problems, he says. Committing them to mental hospitals is a "quick, convenient and very effective" method for the government to silence criticism.
Now some Chinese officials are pushing back against the political confinements. Prodded by academics, activists and former patients, China's National People's Congress is discussing what would be the country's first ever mental health law.
Minister of Health Chen Zhu told the standing committee of the Congress in October that the new law will curb the abuse of involuntary hospitalization and better protect the rights of the mentally ill. Chen blamed "procedural failings" for cases of forcible treatment that were challenged by victims and families.
Despite several shortcomings, the draft legislation represents both a legal and social milestone for the world's most populous country, says Wang Yue, a psychiatry professor at Peking University.
"Only once a society develops to a certain level does it pay more attention to mental health and forced hospitalization," says Wang, who alludes to wrongful confinements in mental wards in the U.S. in the early 1900s, though such cases were not attempts by the government to silence political opponents.
"In China, we have long had the principle of big government and small society, and only now are we moving toward judicial supervision and a society ruled by law," he says. "We must solve the problem of treating those mental patients who need treatment and not hospitalizing people who don't."
Complaining to higher authorities
The number of wrongful confinements has risen because the number of Chinese who demand justice for personal matters has grown, Liu Feiyue says. They are reviving an ancient Chinese system of seeking redress by taking a complaint directly to higher authorities. They are determined, often desperate, he says, and thus troublesome to the authorities who are well aware their careers can be ruined by disquiet.
Xu Wu, 43, a former security guard, had grown suicidal after four years of incarceration, including electric shock treatment, for petitioning authorities about a wage dispute with his employer. In April, after watching a film in which kung fu star Jet Li escapes from jail, Xu copied Li's moves by loosening his cell bars over three nights and escaped from the mental hospital in the Yangtze River port Wuhan.
He fled by train to Guangzhou, 600 miles south, where a hospital test concluded he was sane. He was seized eight days later by plainclothes Wuhan police outside the Guangzhou television station where he had just described his plight on-air. Media coverage, including video of his re-capture, helped secure Xu's release on June 10, the same day the initial draft law was released for public comment.
He has read it and is pessimistic about its effectiveness. "I hope the new law will help other patients, but it will be hard to implement, like all laws in China," Xu says.
His lawyer sounds more optimistic.
"The law will reduce the abuse of power and the confinement of healthy people," says Huang Xuetao, director of the Equity & Justice Initiative, a non-profit based in Shenzhen, south China. She welcomes the revisions adopted in the latest October draft, including removal of the catch-all "risk of public disorder" reason for involuntary hospitalization, but urges further revision before the law is finalized sometime in 2012.
Last month, with the help of Equity & Justice, Xu Wu and four fellow victims of forced hospitalization appealed to the National People's Congress for patients to be permitted to enlist outside representatives to help appeal their diagnosis and confinement.
In China, only the person or organization that applied for a patient's forced commitment can apply for his or her release.
"The ideal would be for every involuntary hospitalization case to be examined and verified by judicial authorities, as happens in some U.S. states," Huang says. "But in China at present, that's just not realistic."
Persistence pays off sometimes
Wu Chunxia won her release from the psychiatric hospital in Xinxiang by threatening suicide and persistently demanding her case be investigated, she says. Now she is battling for justice and compensation both through China's courts, despite their lack of independence from the Communist Party, and the more traditional route of petitioning higher authorities, the very act that, while legal, got her detained in the first place.
She has had some success. Officials revoked the police decisions to punish her petitioning first by detaining her, then by committing her to a labor camp, a decision later changed to confinement in the mental hospital. The policeman who handled her case, Zhang Xiaodong, told USA TODAY he doesn't know Wu. But earlier this month, in an interview with Southern Metropolitan News, Zhang blamed his treatment of Wu on orders from the local political-legal committee, a Communist Party group that guides judicial work. Committee secretary Li Zongxi declined to comment.
Corruption plays a major role
Rights activist Liu says officials commit troublemakers to mental hospitals because the process is secretive and, unlike the courts, requires no evidence of wrongdoing. He says the full extent of wrongful confinement in recent years far exceeds the 1,000 cases his group has compiled in a database since 2009.
Corruption also plays a major role. Unethical doctors and hospital administrators can benefit financially by allowing police to turn hospitals into "black jails," Liu says.
For these reasons, Liu says the new law will remain "just a piece of paper" until China undertakes "systematic change, to a society that genuinely respects law and human rights."
Even accepting the current draft over nothing may be a devil's bargain, warns Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watchg. "A bad law will entrench bad practices and would extend too much the power of public security officials to detain people on the basis of their political opinion or other irrelevant aspects," he says.
China has failed to adopt the international norms for mental health law set out in the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, despite its ratification by Beijing, Bequelin says. The draft lacks provision for people to be assisted by lawyers and fails to prohibit the "political use of psychiatry," he says.
Wu Chunxia is encouraged by the pending legislation. "It shows more attention paid to human rights in China," she says. "I hope the law stops normal people suffering the persecution I had."
Two years after Wu filed a suit against both the hospital and the neighborhood officials who committed her, a court in nearby Shenqiu County held its first hearing in October. Now she is petitioning the provincial court to speed the process and asking police to investigate the policeman Zhang Xiaodong.
"I have no home or family, I have been detained and tortured by illegal medical treatment," Wu says. "They have destroyed the latter half of my life. Until the people who illegally handled my case are punished, I won't close my eyes, even in death."
Contributing: Sunny Yang
By Radio Free Asia
December 27, 2011
The security checks are believed to be part of a 100-day 'strike hard' anti-terror campaign in Xinjiang.
Authorities in China's troubled northwestern Xinjiang region have stepped up security checks on citizens, an overseas rights group said on Tuesday, as at least five ethnic minority Uyghurs are detained for possession of material deemed subversive by Beijing.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, said the tightened measures had begun last week in the regional capital Urumqi, but had also been reported in the south of the region, where police were carrying out house searches in the middle of the night.
"In the Aksu district there were some Uyghurs who were discovered in possession of photographs of [exiled Uyghur leader] Rebiya Kadeer and former U.S. president George W. Bush on their computers," Raxit said. "They were detained."
"In Yangtakexiehaier village, the police organized nearly 60 people to search more than 200 Uyghur households on Dec. 20," he added. "Some of the methods they used were violent."
He said police had confiscated computers from the home of at least one villager, Azmet Sadik, and had discovered "religious propaganda materials" at the home of another, Yifu Halili.
"They included books and disks explaining to people how to conduct [Islamic] prayers," Raxit said. "The two men are currently being held in the local police station."
The searches are believed to be part of a 100-day "strike hard"
anti-terror campaign in Xinjiang, begun by the Chinese authorities three weeks ago.
Four Uyghur men were detained recently in Urumqi for "taking part in illegal religious activities," while dozens were fined, Raxit said.
China's Muslim Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking ethnic minority that has long chafed under Beijing's rule, have their practice of Islam tightly regulated by the ruling Communist Party, which bans children from mosques and controls everything about their worship, from the wording of sermons to "approved" interpretations of the Quran.
According to the authorities, study of the Quran in an unauthorized location constitutes an "illegal religious activity."
Raxit said raids had also taken place in Urumqi, which was rocked by ethnic violence in July 2009 that left nearly 200 people dead, according to official figures.
"There was a huge operation in Urumqi on Saturday," he said. "This was mostly focused on the close-packed Uyghur districts on the outskirts of the city."
Xinjiang's regional ruling Communist Party secretary Zhang Chunxian, who was brought in as a hardline "new broom" following the 2009 violence, said last week that his government would be stepping up measures to "preserve social stability" during 2012, when the party holds its 18th Congress, and Urumqi will host another Eurasian Expo.
The Xinjiang Daily quoted Zhang as calling on regional officials to make a watchful security stance the norm rather than the exception.
"Officials at all levels must harden their stance on opposing splittism and stepping up their crackdown on extremist religious forces and their activities," Zhang told a meeting on stability and security at the weekend.
An Urumqi resident surnamed Zhang said the citizens' security brigades that were recruited from among the Han population in the wake of the 2009 unrest were still very much in evidence.
"There are still a lot of security personnel and employees wearing red armbands in the underground markets and malls," he said.
"Some are uniformed [private] security guards, while others are employees wearing red armbands."
Since the raids in Aksu last week, three more Uyghur men have been detained in continuing raids on Uyghur homes, Raxit said.
"They are accused of possessing reactionary, splittist reading materials," he said.
A police officer who answered the phone at the village police station confirmed the raids had taken place.
"Yes, that's right," the officer said, when asked if police there had recently confiscated "illegal" religious recordings and DVDs. "Mostly it was religious content, but there was also some pornography, along with other things that have been banned now," the officer said.
Asked if the confiscated material included media of Rebiya Kadeer, he said: "Yes, there were pictures of Rebiya Kadeer, as well as audiovisual material, which basically means stuff on DVD. She is subversive and a splittist."
But he declined to confirm how many Uyghurs were being held. "I'm not very familiar with the details, because things change daily from shift to shift," he said.
He said Uyghurs found with such material would receive different treatment "depending on the circumstances."
"We would have to see what they had been found with, the things that we found, and also the things that the state security police found," he said. "The more serious cases [will get criminal detention]...then we get in touch with the religious affairs bureau and we work on some of the process together."
Official media say Beijing wants to turn Urumqi into an important exchange platform for leaders and businesses in China and its western and southern neighbors, including Russia, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan.
But some experts believe Beijing's rapid development of Xinjiang, which they say has created more opportunities for Han Chinese than for the local Uyghur population, is leading to additional ethnic tension in the region.
Last year, Beijing ramped up security before and during for the five-day China-Eurasia Expo trade fair in Urumqi. The added security measures came in the wake of separate attacks in the Silk Road cities of Kashgar and Hotan that killed more than 30 people in July.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service and Hai Nan for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
>> Original Source
By BBC World News
December 26, 2011
A veteran Chinese activist who was involved in the 1989 Tiananmen protests has been jailed for 10 years.
Chen Xi was convicted of subverting state power after a trial lasting a few hours. He had published essays online criticising the Communist Party.
The jailing comes days after another activist, Chen Wei, was imprisoned for the same offence.
Rights groups expressed outrage and accused Beijing of using the Christmas period as cover for a crackdown.
"It does work really well because there's no diplomatic activity around Christmas," said Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch.
"By the time the diplomats get back to their desks, the sequence of events has moved on."
Chen Xi's wife, Zhang Qunxuan, told reporters that her husband was innocent, but would not launch a "futile" appeal against his conviction.
"Chen Xi told the court it did not take into consideration the things he has written as a whole, and has interpreted his words out of context. But they have power and they don't listen," she said.
He had posted 36 essays online, and also hosted a human rights forum in Guiyang, south-west China.
Chen Xi has been jailed several times since being involved in the 1989 protests.
Analysts say Beijing has a long-standing policy of punishing veteran activists who refuse to stop criticising the government.
Another activist, Chen Wei, was jailed last week for nine years for criticising the party.
He had argued that he was exercising the right of freedom of expression guaranteed by China's constitution.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay called his sentence "extremely harsh" and said it "indicates a further tightening of the severe restrictions on the scope of freedom of expression in China that has been seen over the last two years".
"I call upon Chinese authorities to release any person detained for peacefully exercising his or her right to freedom of expression," she said in a statement released on Monday.
Ms Pillay also criticised the decision earlier this month to send lawyer Gao Zhisheng back to jail.
"[These] are the latest examples of an escalating clampdown on the activities of human rights defenders in China," she said.
By Steven Jiang | CNN International
December 16, 2011
DONGSHIGU VILLAGE, China (CNN) -- As Christian Bale approached an impromptu checkpoint leading to this tiny village in eastern China, four men blocking the narrow path started marching toward him in menacing unison.
"I am here to see Chen Guangcheng," the "Dark Knight" actor said and I translated, with correspondent Stan Grant and cameraman Brad Olson next to us.
"Go away!" the plainclothes guards barked, pushing us back.
Amid the scuffling and yelling, dozens more guards in olive-green, military-style overcoats -- and two gray minivans -- emerged from the other side of the checkpoint, all coming toward us.
"Why can I not visit this free man?" Bale asked repeatedly, only to receive punches from guards aiming for his small camera as they tried to drag him away from the rest of us.
As we retreated, I recognized the ringleader -- the same burly man who had hurled rocks at the CNN team 10 months earlier to force us out of the same location.
A precarious scene ensued Thursday as one of the gray minivans chased our car at high speed on bumpy country roads for some 40 minutes.
When the dust settled, we counted a broken car, a damaged camera -- and a Hollywood star disappointed at -- but not shocked by -- his failure to see a personal hero.
"What I really wanted to do was to meet the man, shake his hand and say what an inspiration he is," Bale said.
The man, 40-year-old Chen Guangcheng, has been confined to his home along with his wife, mother and daughter, and watched around the clock by dozens of guards since he was released from prison in September 2010. A local court had sentenced him to more than four years in prison for damaging property and disrupting traffic in a protest.
Blind China activist recovers amid call for his release
His supporters maintain authorities used trumped-up charges to silence Chen, a blind, self-taught lawyer who rose to fame in the late 1990s thanks to his legal advocacy for what he called victims of abusive practices by China's family-planning officials.
Bale first learned about Chen through news reports, including our coverage in February, when he was in China filming "The Flowers of War," a wartime drama set in 1930s Nanjing in which he plays a mortician trying to save a group of schoolgirls from the clutches invading Japanese soldiers.
Blind lawyer makes Chinese officials jittery
The injustice faced by the activist and his family stirred such strong emotions in Bale that, upon hearing his impending return to China to promote the movie, he decided to do something unusual to raise the international awareness of Chen and thereby to turn up the heat on the Chinese government.
"This doesn't come naturally to me, this is not what I actually enjoy -- it isn't about me," he explained during our eight-hour drive from Beijing to the eastern city of Linyi, where Chen's village is located. "But this was just a situation that said I can't look the other way."
Known to be a media-shy celebrity, Bale reached out to CNN and invited us to join him on his journey to visit Chen.
In the car, he lamented the American public's lack of knowledge on Chen's case, despite senior U.S. officials' increasingly vocal support for his freedom. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Gary Locke, the American ambassador to China, have both championed Chen's cause.
Bale appeared a little surprised to learn that Relativity Media, which produced his 2010 Oscar-winning "The Fighter" and recently filmed a comedy in Linyi, was accused by activists of cozying up to the same officials who ordered Chen's detention and torture. The studio has issued a statement denying the allegation.
Although China's state media has largely ignored the story, Chen's plight has spread online and outraged a growing number of Chinese "netizens." Many have tried to visit Chen, and activists say nearly all would-be visitors have been turned back, often violently, by plainclothes police and local thugs.
"I'm not brave doing this," Bale emphasized. "The local people who are standing up to the authorities, who are visiting Chen and his family and getting beaten or detained, I want to support them."
As our car sped toward Beijing in the dark, Bale wondered aloud if he would never be allowed back -- a prospect he is prepared to accept -- even as "The Flowers of War" became China's official entry into next year's Academy Awards.
"Really, what else can I do to help Chen?" he kept asking as the clock struck midnight, with his latest movie -- partially funded by the state -- about to open nationwide in China.
By Michael Riley and John Walcott | BloombergBusinessweek
December 14, 2011
(Updates with countries where attacks have occurred in 45th paragraph.)
Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Google Inc. and Intel Corp. were logical targets for China-based hackers, given the solid-gold intellectual property data stored in their computers. An attack by cyber spies on iBahn, a provider of Internet services to hotels, takes some explaining.
iBahn provides broadband business and entertainment access to guests of Marriott International Inc. and other hotel chains, including multinational companies that hold meetings on site. Breaking into iBahn's networks, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the matter, may have let hackers see millions of confidential e-mails, even encrypted ones, as executives from Dubai to New York reported back on everything from new product development to merger negotiations.
More worrisome, hackers might have used iBahn's system as a launching pad into corporate networks that are connected to it, using traveling employees to create a backdoor to company secrets, said Nick Percoco, head of Trustwave Corp.'s SpiderLabs, a security firm.
The hackers' interest in companies as small as Salt Lake City-based iBahn illustrates the breadth of China's spying against firms in the U.S. and elsewhere. The networks of at least 760 companies, research universities, Internet service providers and government agencies were hit over the last decade by the same elite group of China-based cyber spies. The companies, including firms such as Research in Motion Ltd. and Boston Scientific Corp., range from some of the largest corporations to niche innovators in sectors like aerospace, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, according to intelligence data obtained by Bloomberg News.
"They are stealing everything that isn't bolted down, and it's getting exponentially worse," said Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who is chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
China has made industrial espionage an integral part of its economic policy, stealing company secrets to help it leapfrog over U.S. and other foreign competitors to further its goal of becoming the world's largest economy, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded in a report released last month.
"What has been happening over the course of the last five years is that China -- let's call it for what it is -- has been hacking its way into every corporation it can find listed in Dun & Bradstreet," said Richard Clarke, former special adviser on cybersecurity to U.S. President George W. Bush, at an October conference on network security. "Every corporation in the U.S., every corporation in Asia, every corporation in Germany. And using a vacuum cleaner to suck data out in terabytes and petabytes. I don't think you can overstate the damage to this country that has already been done."
In contrast, U.S. cyberspies go after foreign governments and foreign military and terrorist groups, Clarke said.
"We are going after things to defend ourselves against future attacks," he said.
Such accusations intensified when a Nov. 3 report by 14 U.S. intelligence agencies fingered China as the No. 1 hacker threat to U.S. firms. While the Obama administration took the unprecedented step of outing China by name, the White House, U.S. intelligence agencies and members of Congress are struggling to assess how much damage is being done during such attacks and what to do to stop them beyond public rebuke.
For now, the administration is concentrating on raising awareness among company executives and seeking a commitment to improve security against such attacks. Rogers has a bill pending in the House that would permit the government to share secret information that would help companies spot hacker intrusions, such as signatures of malicious Chinese software.
Consistently Denied Responsibility
China has consistently denied it has any responsibility for hacking that originated from servers on its soil. Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, didn't respond to several e-mails and phone calls requesting comment. Wang Baodong, another Chinese government spokesman in Washington, also didn't respond to requests for comment.
Based on what is known of attacks from China, Russia and other countries, a declassified estimate of the value of the blueprints, chemical formulas and other material stolen from U.S. corporate computers in the last year reached almost $500 billion, said Rogers, a former agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
U.S. officials are grappling with how stolen information is being used, said Scott Borg, an economist and director of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a non-profit research institute. Calculating the damage depends on hard-to-know variables, such as how effectively and quickly thieves can integrate stolen data into competing products, the senior intelligence official said.
While a precise dollar figure for damage is elusive, the overall magnitude of the attacks is not, Borg said.
"We're talking about stealing entire industries," he said. "This may be the biggest transfer of wealth in a short period of time that the world has ever seen."
The public evidence against China now being rolled out by the Obama administration, Rogers and others in Congress has been collected by the intelligence community over several years. Many of the details remain classified.
The hackers who attacked iBahn are among the most skilled of at least 17 China-based spying operations the U.S. intelligence community has identified, according to a private security official briefed on the matter who asked not to be identified because of the subject's sensitivity.
Massive Espionage Ring
The hackers are part of a massive espionage ring codenamed Byzantine Foothold by U.S. investigators, according to a person familiar with efforts to track the group. They specialize in infiltrating networks using phishing e-mails laden with spyware, often passing on the task of exfiltrating data to others.
Segmented tasking among various groups and sophisticated support infrastructure are among the tactics intelligence officials have revealed to Congress to show the hacking is centrally coordinated, the person said. U.S. investigators estimate Byzantine Foothold is made up of anywhere from several dozen hackers to more than one hundred, said the person, who declined to be identified because the matter is secret.
"The guys who get in first tend to be the best. If you can't get in, the rest of the guys can't do any work," said Richard Bejtlich, chief security officer for Mandiant Corp., an Alexandria, Virginia-based security firm that specializes in cyber espionage. "We've seen some real skill problems with the people who are getting the data out. I guess they figure if they haven't been caught by that point, they'll have as many chances as they need to remove the data."
U.S. and other companies have been secretive about the details of their computer security. When Google announced in 2010 that China-based hackers had raided its networks, it was a rare example of a U.S. company publicly revealing a cyberburglary aimed at its intellectual property -- in this case, its source code.
Mountain View, California-based Google, the world's largest search-engine firm, said at the time that at least 34 other major companies were victims of the same attack. However, only two -- Intel and Adobe Systems Inc. -- stepped forward, and they provided few specifics.
Google vastly underestimated the scope of the spying. Intelligence documents obtained by Bloomberg News show that China-based hackers have hunted technology and information across dozens of economic sectors and in some of the most obscure corners of the economy, beginning in 2001 and accelerating over the last three years. Many of the victims have been hacked more than once.
One victim of Byzantine Foothold, Associated Computer Systems, a division of Xerox Corp., provides back-office services such as accounting and human resources for thousands of multinational firms and government agencies in more than 100 countries. According to its website, ACS's expertise includes digitizing and storing documents, a potential treasure-trove of information on the firm's corporate clients, including carmakers and computer companies.
Other targets of the group include large companies such as Hewlett-Packard Co., Volkswagen AG and Yahoo! Inc. Smaller firms in strategic sectors were also hit, such as iBahn and Innovative Solutions & Support Inc., which manufactures flight-information computers; as were Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Italian Academic and Research Network and the California State University Network.
An informal working group of private-sector cybersecurity experts and government investigators identified the victims by tracing information sent from hacked company networks to spy group-operated command-and-control servers, according to a person familiar with the process. In some cases, the targets aren't aware they were hacked.
People's Liberation Army
Such tracing is sometimes possible because of sloppiness and mistakes made by the spies, said another senior intelligence official who asked not to be named because the matter is classified. In one instance, a ranking officer in China's People's Liberation Army, or PLA, employed the same server used in cyberspying operations to communicate with his mistress, the intelligence official said.
Many of the cyberattacks have been linked to specific China-related events, a pattern noted by secret diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website. During the five-year period beginning in 2006, a second group of China- based hackers ransacked the networks of at least 71 companies, government entities, think-tanks and non-profit groups, said McAfee Inc., which analyzed information from servers used in the attacks.
'Operation Shady Rat'
Details of those intrusions were originally published in an August report by the cybersecurity firm dubbed "Operation Shady Rat." The report didn't name the country where the hackers were based or identify the private-sector victims. The report's principal author, Dmitri Alperovitch, who now heads his own firm, Asymmetric Cyber Operations, confirmed the country was China.
In one of the earliest attacks on a company, cyberspies hacked into the computer networks of POSCO, the South Korean steel giant, in July 2006, Alperovitch said. The intrusion took place the same month that the steelmaker, the third largest in the world, initiated a takeover of a large steel mill in eastern China, according to the U.S.-based Epoch Times, founded by supporters of the dissident Falun Gong spiritual sect, which first noted a link between the two events.
Earthquakes and Satellites
Two years later, Chinese rescue workers were using satellite communications equipment made by the Danish technology firm Thrane & Thrane AS following a major earthquake in Sichuan province. China Daily, the quasi-official newspaper, had praised the Danish equipment's performance. Alperovitch said the Danish firm was hacked by the Shady Rat crew three months later.
"With fans like those, who needs enemies?" he said.
John Alexandersen, a spokesman for the Lundtofte, Denmark- based Thrane & Thrane, said although he couldn't "rule out" that hackers breached their networks, no confidential data was taken. POSCO said hackers didn't access critical networks or intellectual property.
The approval of China's most recent five-year economic plan provides another possible link between Chinese government policy and cyber-espionage. The plan, approved by the National People's Congress in March, identifies seven priority industries that mirror the most prominent targets of China-based cyberspies, according to the two senior U.S. intelligence officials who have knowledge of the victims.
KPMG International, the auditing firm, said the five-year plan's priorities include clean energy; biotechnology; advanced semiconductors; information technology; high-end manufacturing, such as aerospace and telecom equipment; and biotechnology, including drugs and medical devices.
Same Shopping List
In many cases, the iBahn hackers appear to be working off the same shopping list, according to intelligence documents.
In the biotechnology sector, their victims include Boston Scientific, the medical device maker, as well as Abbott Laboratories and Wyeth, the drug maker that is now part of Pfizer Inc.
The hackers also rifled networks of the Parkland Computer Center in Rockville, Maryland, according to documents provided to Bloomberg News by a person involved in government tracking of the cyberspies, who declined to be identified because the matter isn't public. Parkland is the computing center for the Food and Drug Administration, which has access to drug trial information, chemical formulas and other data for almost every important drug sold in the U.S.
In the manufacturing sector, San Jose, California-based Cypress Semiconductor Corp., which makes advanced chips for telecommunications equipment, was a victim, as were Aerospace Corp., which provides scientific research on national security- related space programs, and Environmental Systems Research Institute, a Redlands, California-based company that develops mapping software.
In China, those industries are developing rapidly. Chinese companies were involved in 10 of the 13 global technology initial public offerings in the third quarter of 2011, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, the global auditing firm. The Chinese firms specialized in information technology, semiconductors and clean energy, like solar power, the PwC report said.
Driving China's spike in cyberspying is the reality that hacking is cheaper than product development, especially given China's vast pool of hackers, said a fourth U.S. intelligence official. That pool includes members of its militia, who hack on commission, the official said. They target computing, high technology and pharmaceutical companies whose products take lots of time and money to develop, the official said.
U.S. counterintelligence authorities have been tracking China's cyberspies for years under the classified codename Byzantine Hades, which a March 27, 2009, secret State Department cable published by WikiLeaks calls "a group of associated computer network intrusions with an apparent nexus to China."
Byzantine Foothold, Byzantine Candor and Byzantine Anchor represent subsets, or various groups, of the overall Chinese cyber espionage threat, the person familiar with the secret tracking effort said.
Among the victims of Byzantine Foothold are Internet service providers in more than a dozen countries, including Canada, Switzerland, Bangladesh, Venezuela and Russia. The ISPs are used as platforms to hack other victims and disguise spying activity.
An Oct. 30, 2008, State Department cable described China- based hackers accessing several computer networks of a commercial Internet provider in the U.S. They used the company's systems to extract "at least 50 megabytes of e-mail messages and attached documents, as well as a complete list of usernames and passwords from an unspecified" U.S. government agency, according to the cable.
PLA's Third Department
The cable stated that the hackers were based in Shanghai and linked to the PLA's Third Department, a unit of the Chinese military that, according to a 2009 report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, is responsible for cyber operations.
"Some notion that this isn't nation-state driven is just false," said Rogers, the House intelligence committee chairman.
Fifteen of the companies and universities identified as hit by the iBahn hackers and contacted by Bloomberg News either declined to comment, said they had no knowledge of the attack, or didn't respond to requests for comment. Erik Fallis, a spokesman for the California State University Network, said that following an investigation, "no evidence was found to suggest that this event compromised CSU assets."
Obama administration officials seeking to forge a robust policy and diplomatic response are facing few good options, said Clarke, the former White House cyber security official.
UN Security Council
China, a member of the UN Security Council, has the power to veto multilateral initiatives aimed at the country that pass through that body.
Sanctions on Chinese goods in sectors that have been heavily targeted by cyberspies -- green energy, semiconductors and pharmaceuticals -- would be a problematic solution, probably sparking a trade war, said James Lewis, a cyber security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
U.S. government officials considering whether major corporate networks should be protected as a national security asset face opposition even from some victims protective of the Internet's laissez-fair culture, said Richard Falkenrath, a senior fellow for counterterrorism and national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"The situation we are in now is the consequence of three decades of hands-off approach by government in the development of the Internet," Falkenrath said.
Lack the Leverage
For now, administration officials have correctly assessed that they lack the leverage to compel China to change its alleged criminal behavior, he said.
"The Cold War is a pretty good analogy," Falkenrath said. "There was never any serious effort to change the internal character of Soviet state."
At a minimum, the November intelligence agency report does throw down a marker in that conflict, said Estonian Defense Minister Mart Laar. Estonia, which suffered a massive cyber attack in 2007 it said originated from Russia -- is pushing for a NATO cyber defense alliance.
"I remember how the Cold War was changed, and you could for the first time feel the Soviet defeat coming when Ronald Reagan called the Evil Empire evil," Laar said.
By Radio FREE Asia
December 09, 2011
How much money do China's paid commentators, the '50 cent army,' really make?
A pair of leaked receipts from a university in northwestern China that apparently shows the pay given to government-backed Internet commentators, known as the "50 cent army," has been circulating among netizens this week.
Sealed with the official stamp of "The Party Committee Propaganda Department of the Northwestern Polytechnic University of the Chinese Communist Party," the receipts confirm that money was paid to "Internet commentators."
An employee who answered the phone at the Xian-based university confirmed that such a job exists on campus.
"You mean a propaganda specialist," he said, when asked if there was such a job as "Internet commentator" at the college.
But he said he didn't know much about the job, and supplied a second phone number for more information.
The employee who answered this number also confirmed the job exists.
"Of course we do," he said. "The job is to write news ... for example, they might use their knowledge of scholarly articles."
"With editorial input from the team, they can produce something of great value," he said.
However, he hung up when pressed for further details.
China is stepping up media training for its officials, as well as an army of freelance commentators paid to direct public debate online, known as the "50 cent army," according to official media reports in recent months.
A news report from local television station, Hubei Xishui TV, said local officials from the Xishui county propaganda department had held training exercises for official spokespersons and "Internet commentators."
Media training courses for commentators and government officials include tips on how to influence coverage by the country's biggest news organizations, as well as numerous methods of using the Internet and social media to spread the government's message.
Internet commentators are expected to report "the truth" as fast as possible, to supplement their information with explanations for events, and to influence Internet debate in the "correct" direction, reports have said.
Veteran bloggers and online activists say that a typical workday for a 50-center would involve watching forum posts, microblog posts, and chatrooms for topics linked to a specific keyword allocated by their managers.
How much they are paid depends on the number of comments, tweets, and posts they make that steer the debate in the government's preferred direction.
According to the receipts currently circulating, which had the personal details of the 50-centers obscured, two commentaries were paid for by the university, one at 20 yuan, and one at 30 yuan.
A shadowy world
The world of the government-backed online commentators is shadowy, with ordinary netizens left to infer how they operate from their behavior online or from the occasional leaked document.
Earlier this year, the news website Canyu leaked a document titled "Internal Work Handbook" allegedly written for 50-centers.
In it, hired commentators are instructed to track down the source of any online "rumors," and then to order the website that first posted it to delete the offending item.
One Chinese student who declined to be named said he had once written articles for the government online, to earn a little extra money.
"I saw that my classmates were doing it as well, and I didn't think anything of it," he said. "I didn't know that we were the so-called '50 cent army.'"
"I didn't really understand what I was doing, and I was somewhat lacking in values," he said. "Now I deeply regret going out to bat for them with comments like that."
He said he was able to earn around 100-120 yuan a month writing the articles.
Chinese Internet expert Li Li said that while the 50 cent army appears to be growing in numbers, their effectiveness is limited.
"If you do a lot of bad things, you will lose credibility ... and eventually no one will believe anything you say," Li said.
"Then there will be a backlash; everyone will know who the 50 cent army are, and the government's credibility will be at its lowest possible level."
Blogger Wen Yunchao, known by his online nickname Beifeng, said most netizens adopted a policy of ignoring 50-centers.
"We pretend we don't hear or see them," he said. "We treat them as if they weren't there, and never give any kind of reaction."
"This makes them much less effective."
Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
>> Original Source
By Sharon LaFraniere | The New York Times
December 04, 2011
Periodic elections to neighborhood People's Congresses are as close to participatory democracy as this nation comes. Of the many grass-roots candidates running here this year, Qiao Mu, an energetic 41-year-old journalism professor in the capital, seemed one of the better bets.
He was well known and liked on the campus of the Beijing Foreign Studies University, his election district. He ran an innovative campaign, making full use of social networks and other Internet tools. He amassed a cadre of enthusiastic student campaigners, and he aimed for practical improvements in campus life: a faster Internet connection and permission for students to study in the spare classrooms instead of the crowded cafeteria.
He lost anyway. A university vice president -- a largely unknown personage whose campaign amounted to some posters -- collected three times as many votes.
Mr. Qiao said authorities did all they could to stymie him, keeping his name off the ballot, threatening his student volunteers, even forcibly collecting the red bookmarks he had printed with the slogan: "I am the master of my ballot."
"The harassment started from the very beginning," he said in an interview in his university office, still cluttered with campaign paraphernalia he never got to distribute. "It is a shame, because I didn't do anything wrong," he said. "All we did was follow China's Constitution and election law."
His experience demonstrates an underlying political doctrine of today's China: while Chinese leaders speak in favor of political reform, local authorities routinely deny voters the chance to freely choose a political representative.
Such official machinations have become more obvious and more intense this year -- a telling indicator of the government's paranoia over a greatly increased pool of independent candidates, even given the near powerlessness of the congresses.
A final assessment is still months away. But Li Fan, an election expert who has been monitoring the elections around the country, said the votes were more rigged than ever.
"It is a big step backward from previous years," said Mr. Li, director of the World and China Institute, a nongovernmental research center in Beijing. The government, obsessed with the notion that political stability must be maintained, "has taken strict control of the elections," he said.
Inspired by the potential of Internet services like China's Twitter-like microblogs to create visibility and impetus, an unprecedented number of independent candidates are trying to contest the Communist Party's chosen candidates for two million seats on the local People's Congresses, China's lowest parliamentary tier, which has elections every five years for posts that are largely symbolic.
Haidian District, a Beijing sector of 1.6 million residents where Mr. Qiao sought office, is particularly hospitable to such challenges. The district, chockablock with universities and known for its comparatively liberal bent, elected China's first independent candidate in 1984. According to Mr. Li, Haidian fielded 23 of Beijing's roughly 28 successful independent candidates in 2003 and all 16 independent candidates elected in the capital in 2006.
But this Nov. 8, Mr. Li said, although Beijing had a surge of 40 to 50 grass-roots candidates, not one was elected. The same held true in voting on Sept. 8 in Wuhan, a city in east-central China, and on Nov. 18 in Shanghai, he said. The local governments "do not want to see any independent candidate be seated," he said.
Mr. Qiao, a Communist Party member who advocates democratic reforms, seemed an especially intriguing candidate. As a student in 1989, he participated in the student-led protests in Tiananmen Square, but faced no repercussions. Later he went to work for Beijing government's foreign affairs office, where he said he was disgusted by the "ridiculous ideology," low pay, corruption and bureaucracy.
He returned to academia, joining the faculty of the Foreign Studies University in 2002. Now an associate professor and director of the Center for International Communications Studies, he cultivates ties with students, regularly joining them in the cafeteria. He announced his candidacy on Sept. 28, he said, because "it is my right."
Some of his tactics were avant-garde by China's standards, such as going online to sell book bags emblazoned with his photo, and touring dormitories with his wife and daughter in tow. But his proposals were strictly nonpolitical, such as moving a smelly garbage collection site.
Nonetheless, before he even gathered student volunteers for a meeting, he said, his department's party leader urged him to withdraw, telling him, "What you have said about democracy has made the authorities very angry."
Undeterred, he collected more than 500 signatures from faculty and students -- more than 50 times the number required by law. The university responded by announcing that the university's vice president and another university official had more signatures and would be the only names on the ballot.
Professor Qiao then tried to mount a write-in campaign, but one by one, his student volunteers quit. Some said that school officials had telephoned their parents, warning them that their children were engaged in illegal activities.
"They even told students that they were going to ask their parents to come to the school," said one graduate student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was afraid of getting into trouble. "Most students thought it was so unfair."
Rumors swirled that Mr. Qiao was a tool of the American Embassy or the foreign media, or that he was on his way out. School officials demanded that students turn in their red bookmarks and barred Mr. Qiao from the dormitories. University officials repeatedly advised him that government and university policies and regulations carried more weight than an election law.
In the final week before the vote, he said, his telephone calls were monitored and two security officers tailed him. Except for e-mail, his Internet tools were disabled, a situation that persists to this day. That included three microblog accounts on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, another blog with his scholarly articles, a video site with his campaign clips, and two social networking pages, where 20,000 people followed his posts.
"It seemed like my mouth was forced shut and my ears were cut off," he said.
On Nov. 8, he said, colorful banners on campus urged people to "vote gloriously" and "enhance the rule of law." Of 8,030 people who cast ballots, 1,296 wrote in his name. The university vice president won with 4,127 votes.
Given the stacked playing field, Mr. Qiao considers that a victory. "What they did to me," he said, "shows their weakness and my strength."