News: April 2010 Archives
By Chris Chase | for (UNCENSORED) Yahoo! Sports
April 28, 2010
China was stripped of a team all-around bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Olympics on Wednesday because it fielded an underage gymnast. Dong Fangxiao was discovered to be 14 at the time of those Games, two years younger than the minimum age requirement.
The medal will be given to the United States team which finished fourth in Sydney. The IOC has asked for China to return the medals "as soon as possible" so they can be reallocated to the U.S. team.
The action comes 20 months after China was accused of doctoring the ages of at least two of its gymnasts at the Beijing Games. Those allegations became a focal point of the 2008 Games but were quickly hushed up by the IOC after it cleared China following a sham investigation which basically consisted of the Olympic governing body asking China if they were really, really sure that the gymnasts were of age. When China said "yes" and produced passports and ID cards, the IOC dropped the matter, seemingly content to let the controversy pass and not risk offending its Olympic hosts.
Forget the fact that media reports and security experts found Chinese government documents which said 2008 team member He Kexin was 14 years old and not 16. Forget that asking China to produce documents proving its innocence would be like replacing drug tests with a simple questionaire in which athletes are asked whether they've ever doped or not. And, now, expect the IOC to forget that Dong had proper documentation at one point too, documentation which was clearly forged.
Dong was caught because somebody slipped up and printed a different birthdate on her credentials for Beijing. Instead of being born in on Jan. 20, 1983, as was claimed in Sydney, Dong's listed birthdate was Jan. 23, 1986. On her blog she says she was born in the Year of the Ox, which would fit with the Jan. 1986 birthday.
The International Gymnastics Federation looked into the allegations following the controversy in Beijing and recommended to the IOC that China be stripped of its medal from 2000 because of Dong's participation. The organization did so Wednesday at a board meeting in Dubai.
This action only happened because the evidence was so overwhelming that the IOC had to act. They didn't seek out the truth, it was thrust upon them. As the organization showed in Beijing, if it had its druthers, it would have swept this under the rug long ago.
Just because China cheated in 2000 doesn't necessarily mean those gymnasts were under 16 in Beijing. It does, however, lead to a lot more questions and should reopen the inquiry. Knowing the IOC, don't hold your breath.
By Edward Wong | The New York Times
April 26, 2010
The Chinese military is seeking to project naval power well beyond the Chinese coast, from the oil ports of the Middle East to the shipping lanes of the Pacific, where the United States Navy has long reigned as the dominant force, military officials and analysts say.
The strategy is a sharp break from the traditional, narrower doctrine of preparing for war over the self-governing island of Taiwan or defending the Chinese coast. Now, Chinese admirals say they want warships to escort commercial vessels that are crucial to the country's economy, from as far as the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Malacca, in Southeast Asia, and to help secure Chinese interests in the resource-rich South and East China Seas.
The overall plan reflects China's growing sense of self-confidence and increasing willingness to assert its interests abroad. China's naval ambitions are being felt, too, in recent muscle flexing with the United States: in March, Chinese officials told senior American officials privately that China would brook no foreign interference in its territorial issues in the South China Sea, said a senior American official involved in China policy.
The naval expansion will not make China a serious rival to American naval hegemony in the near future, and there are few indications that China has aggressive intentions toward the United States or other countries.
But China, now the world's leading exporter and a giant buyer of oil and other natural resources, is also no longer content to trust the security of sea lanes to the Americans, and its definition of its own core interests has expanded along with its economic clout.
In late March, Adm. Robert F. Willard, the leader of the United States Pacific Command, said in Congressional testimony that recent Chinese military developments were "pretty dramatic." China has tested long-range ballistic missiles that could be used against aircraft carriers, he said. After years of denials, Chinese officials have confirmed that they intend to deploy an aircraft carrier group within a few years.
China is also developing a sophisticated submarine fleet that could try to prevent foreign naval vessels from entering its strategic waters if a conflict erupted in the region, said Admiral Willard and military analysts.
"Of particular concern is that elements of China's military modernization appear designed to challenge our freedom of action in the region," the admiral said.
Yalong Bay, on the southern coast of Hainan island in the South China Sea, is the site of five-star beach resorts just west of a new underground submarine base. The base allows submarines to reach deep water within 20 minutes and roam the South China Sea, which has some of the world's busiest shipping lanes and areas rich in oil and natural gas that are the focus of territorial disputes between China and other Asian nations.
That has caused concern not only among American commanders, but also among officials in Southeast Asian nations, which have been quietly acquiring more submarines, missiles and other weapons. "Regional officials have been surprised," said Huang Jing, a scholar of the Chinese military at the National University of Singapore. "We were in a blinded situation. We thought the Chinese military was 20 years behind us, but we suddenly realized China is catching up."
China is also pressing the United States to heed its claims in the region. In March, Chinese officials told two visiting senior Obama administration officials, Jeffrey A. Bader and James B. Steinberg, that China would not tolerate any interference in the South China Sea, now part of China's "core interest" of sovereignty, said an American official involved in China policy. It was the first time the Chinese labeled the South China Sea a core interest, on par with Taiwan and Tibet, the official said.
Another element of the Chinese Navy's new strategy is to extend its operational reach beyond the South China Sea and the Philippines to what is known as the "second island chain" -- rocks and atolls out in the Pacific, the official said. That zone significantly overlaps the United States Navy's area of supremacy.
Japan is anxious, too. Its defense minister, Toshimi Kitazawa, said in mid-April that two Chinese submarines and eight destroyers were spotted on April 10 heading between two Japanese islands en route to the Pacific, the first time such a large Chinese flotilla had been seen so close to Japan. When two Japanese destroyers began following the Chinese ships, a Chinese helicopter flew within 300 feet of one of the destroyers, the Japanese Defense Ministry said.
Since December 2008, China has maintained three ships in the Gulf of Aden to contribute to international antipiracy patrols, the first deployment of the Chinese Navy beyond the Pacific. The mission allows China to improve its navy's long-range capabilities, analysts say.
A 2009 Pentagon report estimated Chinese naval forces at 260 vessels, including 75 "principal combatants" -- major warships -- and more than 60 submarines. The report noted the building of an aircraft carrier, and said China "continues to show interest" in acquiring carrier-borne jet fighters from Russia. The United States Navy has 286 battle-force ships and 3,700 naval aircraft, though ship for ship the American Navy is considered qualitatively superior to the Chinese Navy.
The Pentagon does not classify China as an enemy force. But partly in reaction to China's growth, the United States has recently transferred submarines from the Atlantic to the Pacific so that most of its nuclear-powered attack submarines are now in the Pacific, said Bernard D. Cole, a former American naval officer and a professor at the National War College in Washington.
The United States has also begun rotating three to four submarines on deployments out of Guam, reviving a practice that had ended with the cold war, Mr. Cole said.
American vessels now frequently survey the submarine base at Hainan island, and that activity leads to occasional friction with Chinese ships. A survey mission last year by an American naval ship, the Impeccable, resulted in what Pentagon officials said was harassment by Chinese fishing vessels; the Chinese government said it had the right to block surveillance in those waters because they are an "exclusive economic zone" of China.
The United States and China have clashing definitions of such zones, defined by a United Nations convention as waters within 200 nautical miles of a coast. The United States says international law allows a coastal country to retain only special commercial rights in the zones, while China contends the country can control virtually any activity within them.
By Radio Free Asia
April 20, 2010
Chinese authorities tell monks aiding quake rescue efforts to leave.
As China declared a day of mourning for the more than 2,000 people killed in an earthquake in western Qinghai province, authorities told monks from neighboring areas who played a critical role in rescue and recovery operations to go home, regional sources said.
Several sources who asked not to be named also said businesses and individuals in Tibetan areas had been stopped from delivering supplies to the quake-stricken region.
Officials on Tuesday reported the death toll had risen to 2,064, with more than 12,000 injured and 175 missing. China says the quake was 7.1 magnitude. Relief and reconstruction work has accelerated, with power and telecommunications services largely restored and aid convoys arriving.
"Local authorities issued an order today calling on all monks to return to their respective monasteries, as now they are no longer needed," one Tibetan man said, adding that monks had held a candlelight vigil April 19 that officials feared might take on political significance.
"Residents here see this as a major setback to the relief effort if the monks have to leave," he said.
Some 10,000 monks and 10,000 troops had been working to pull bodies from the wreckage and rubble, he said.
A senior lama in Gyegu [in Chinese, Jiegu] town, along with others, confirmed this account.
"Starting today, all outside monks have been thrown out [of the quake zones]. They are not allowed to join the rescue effort. The notice came out today, issued by the government. Some monks will leave tomorrow," he said in an interview. Some monks are refusing to go, he added.
Another local Tibetan said a number of monks from Sichuan province had been asked to leave Monday, as more troops were trucked in--in two convoys of 15 vehicles each--and more roadblocks were set up along the route to the quake-stricken area.
Woeser, a well-known Tibetan writer and blogger living in Beijing, touched on the political sensitivity of the situation, two years after Tibetan frustration at living under Chinese rule turned into a widespread uprising, followed by a major crackdown.
"The Tibetan monks were told to return to their monasteries or face trouble later. As a result, many monasteries have to urge their monks to abandon the rescue work and come back home," Woeser said in an interview.
A foreign reporter in the area, along with a Tibetan volunteer, meanwhile said bad weather and difficult terrain were hindering rescue efforts.
"In the Gyegu area, rain and snow are quite common. Sometimes there's hail. The weather is so unpredictable," the reporter said. "It's hard to breathe because of the altitude."
A volunteer named Wang Jun said a sudden ice storm on Tuesday around noon further slowed relief workers.
"The snow suddenly fell for about 10 minutes. Now the weather is fine, but if the snow comes again, I think we will need to stop our rescue work," Wang said, referring to his team of 40 volunteers.
A Tibetan volunteer said that the weather was especially bad and that many residents believe the death toll is far higher than the government's tally of just over 2,000.
"We had a big snowfall yesterday and today," the volunteer said. "There's white stuff everywhere."
A Tibetan named Tenzin said figures released by the government are likely to be far lower than the actual number of dead.
"The government is always conservative in publicizing death tolls. But one of my friends told me that at least 2,000 bodies were cremated a few days ago. Some even speculated that the death toll could be 8,000 or 9,000," he said.
"Some numbers were tallied by monks who performed prayer services for the victims. But it's difficult to tally the bodies that have already been cremated."
Anger over official controls
Chinese officials are trying to give the impression they have the situation under control, according to residents of Gyegu, but in many cases they have slowed or disrupted relief efforts.
Chinese President Hu Jintao visited the area Sunday in a bid to boost morale, but residents say Tibetans responded coolly.
"Many of the Tibetan residents expressed their dislike for President Hu by not reciprocating Hu's handshake," said a local Tibetan by telephone.
"Also, a monk shouted at Hu in Chinese, 'You visit as if you were the leader of thugs, not to show your genuine love for the people. We do not have enough aid,'" he said.
The caller said that during Hu's visit, tight security caused traffic in the area to stop completely, delaying the treatment of many of the injured and even leading to some deaths.
"When President Hu visited the site, he didn't come to meet the monks at all, even though they are at the forefront the relief work," he added.
Others said Chinese authorities have been restricting the flow of aid into the area and forcing donations to be distributed through official channels.
"A score of Tibetan businessmen in Kham Driru raised 1 million yuan (U.S. $146,000), as well as many trucks of aid supplies. But the local Chinese authorities stopped them from delivering the aid," said a source in the region.
"They were told that the aid should be delivered only through official channels and that no organizations or individuals are allowed to deliver it to the affected regions themselves."
Similarly, monks from the neighboring Sog Monastery in Nagchu were ordered to hand over their raised donations and aid supplies to Sog county officials, according to exile Tibetan Ngawang Tharpa, who cited a source in Tibet.
Tibetan monks from the Sera Monastery in Lhasa hauling donations to Yushu were also turned away.
"They drove a truckload of food to the disaster area. But I heard that the government doesn't want monks from other Tibetan areas to come to Yushu to join the rescue operation," a Tibetan volunteer said.
Original reporting by Rigdhen Dolma, Tseten Dolkar, and Lobsang Sherab for RFA's Tibetan service; by Hai Lan and Lin Qin for RFA's Cantonese service; and by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translations by Shiny Li from Cantonese, Jia Yuan from Mandarin, and Dorjee Damdul and Rigdhen Dolma from Tibetan. Written in English by Sarah Jackson-Han and Joshua Lipes.
By Gillian Wong - The Associated Press - via Google News
April 16, 2010
A Chinese court jailed three people Friday who posted material on the Internet to help an illiterate woman pressure authorities to reinvestigate her daughter's death, one defendant's lawyer said, in a trial that attracted scores of supporters.
The court in southern Fuzhou city found the Internet activists guilty of slander, sentencing to jail self-taught legal expert Fan Yanqiong for two years. Two others, You Jingyou and Wu Huaying, were each handed one-year sentences, said You's attorney Liu Xiaoyuan, in a phone interview. The court did not name individuals allegedly slandered by the three, saying instead that this was a matter that seriously affected the interest of the state.
The three defendants posted information and videos online in a bid to help Lin Xiuying, a woman who believed her daughter died after being gang-raped two years ago by a group of thugs with links to the police in Fujian province's Mingqin county. Police had ruled that the 25-year-old woman died from an abnormal pregnancy.
It is the latest example of Chinese Internet users being targeted for their budding grass-roots activism -- ordinary people spreading word of grievances from every corner of the country with postings on Twitter, microblogs and other Web sites.
"The court said the three people's actions have seriously affected the interest of the state, which is laughable," said Liu, the lawyer, adding that he worried the verdict could cause public unhappiness in the southern province. "It infringes on the people's freedom of speech, which is the legal right of citizens."
Michael Wines, Sharon LaFraniere and Jonathan Ansfield | The New York Times
April 07, 2010
Type the Chinese characters for "carrot" into Google's search engine here in mainland China, and you will be rewarded not with a list of Internet links, but a blank screen.
Don't blame Google, however. The fault lies with China's censors -- who are increasingly a model for countries around the world that want to control an unrestricted Internet.
Since late March, when Google moved its search operations out of mainland China to Hong Kong, each response to a Chinese citizen's search request has been met at the border by government computers, programmed to censor any forbidden information Google might turn up.
"Carrot" -- in Mandarin, huluobo -- may seem innocuous enough. But it contains the same Chinese character as the surname of President Hu Jintao. And the computers, long programmed to intercept Chinese-language searches on the nation's leaders, substitute an error message for the search result before it can sneak onto a mainland computer.
This is China's censorship machine, part George Orwell, part Rube Goldberg: an information sieve of staggering breadth and fineness, yet full of holes; run by banks of advanced computers, but also by thousands of Communist Party drudges; highly sophisticated in some ways, remarkably crude in others.
The one constant is its growing importance. Censorship used to be the sleepy province of the Communist Party's central propaganda department, whose main task was to tell editors what and what not to print or broadcast. In the new networked China, censorship is a major growth industry, overseen -- and fought over -- by no fewer than 14 government ministries.
"Press control has really moved to the center of the agenda," said David Bandurski, an analyst at the China Media Project of the University of Hong Kong. "The Internet is the decisive factor there. It's the medium that is changing the game in press control, and the party leaders know this."
Today, China censors everything from the traditional print press to domestic and foreign Internet sites; from cellphone text messages to social networking services; from online chat rooms to blogs, films and e-mail. It even censors online games.
That's not all. Not content merely to block dissonant views, the government increasingly employs agents to peddle its views online, in the guise of impartial bloggers and chat-room denizens. And increasingly, it is backing state-friendly clones of Twitter, Facebook and You Tube, all Westerns sites that have been blocked here for roughly a year.
The government's strategy, according to Mr. Bandurski and others, is not just to block unflattering messages, but to overwhelm them with its own positive spin and rebuttals.
The government makes no apologies for what it calls "guiding public opinion." Regulation is crucial, it says, to keep China from sliding into chaos and to preserve the party's monopoly on power.
"Whether we can cope with the Internet is a matter that affects the development of socialist culture, the security of information, and the stability of the state," President Hu said in 2007.
In China's view, events since then -- including the online spread of the democracy manifesto known as Charter 08 and riots in the Tibet and Xinjiang regions, said to be aided by cellphone and Internet communications -- have only reinforced that stance.
In the last year, censorship has increased markedly, as evidenced by the closing of thousands of blogs and Web sites in ostensible anti-pornography campaigns, and the jailing of prominent dissidents who used the Internet to spread their views. The departure of Google's search engine in March only capped months of growing intolerance of unfettered speech.
The paradox -- at least at first glance -- is that even with such pervasive restraints, China's press and Internet are capable of freewheeling discourse and social criticism.
Newspapers, blogs and online chats have unleashed national outrages over a host of topics, including food and medicine contamination and local corruption. Bloggers continually tweak the censors, leaking their orders and creating an online land of mythical creatures whose names are all homonyms for aspects of the state's heavy hand.
Some exposés and satires fall on the acceptable side of an often invisible and shifting line that marks what can and cannot be said freely in China. On the other side are statements that too overtly challenge the Communist Party's hold on power, that attack or embarrass powerful politicians or that tread on a long list of forbidden topics, from unrest in Tibet to political crises like the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
Journalists and Internet publishers often discover that they have crossed the line only after their online presence is blocked, their bylines are blacklisted or they are detained or summoned to "tea" with government security officers who deliver coy but unmistakable warnings.
With 384 million users in China at last count in January -- and 181 million blogs -- the Internet poses a true cat-herding predicament for censors. Foreign entities that operate outside China are the lesser of the censors' problems. The reason is logistical: access to the Internet in China from the outside world is limited, and all traffic must pass through one of three large computer centers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
At those centers, government computers -- the so-called Great Firewall -- intercept inbound data and compare it with a constantly changing list of forbidden keywords and Web addresses.
When a match occurs, the computers can block the incoming data in several ways, from rejecting it outright to making more nuanced trims. For example, Chinese citizens who search Google using sensitive terms like "Tiananmen" may receive complete summaries of relevant Web sites. But if the Web sites are banned, it is impossible to link to them.
Within China, however, data cannot be choked off at a handful of gateways. So the government employs a toolbox of controls, including persuasion, co-opting and force, to keep the Web in line. Self-censorship is the first line of filtering and an obligation of all network and site operators in China.
China's big homegrown sites, like Baidu, Sina.com and Sohu, employ throngs of so-called Web administrators to screen their search engines, chat rooms, blogs and other content for material that flouts propaganda directives. For four years, Google followed suit with its Chinese search engine, Google.cn.
The Internet companies' employees are constantly guessing what is allowed and what will prompt a phone call from government censors. One tactic is to strictly censor risky content at first, then gradually expand access to it week by week, hoping not to trip the censorship wire.
The monitors sit astride a vast and expanding state apparatus that extends to the most remote Chinese town. "There is an Internet monitoring and surveillance unit in every city, wherever you have an Internet connection," said Xiao Qiang, an analyst of China's censorship system, at the Univeresity of California, Berkeley. "Through that system, they get to every major Web site with content."
Under a 2005 State Council regulation, personal blogs, computer bulletin boards and even cellphone text messages are deemed part of the news media, subject to sweeping restrictions on their content.
In practice, many of those restrictions are spottily applied. But reminders that someone is watching are pointed and regular.
An inopportune post to a computer chat forum may produce a rejection message chiding the author for "inappropriate content," and the link to the post may be deleted. Forbidden text messages may be delivered to cellphones as blank screens.
Even so, screening the electronic activities of hundreds of millions of people is a nearly impossible task. Moreover, users increasingly are resorting to technological maneuvers like virtual private networks and proxy servers to sidestep the censors' blocking of banned Web sites altogether. By some reports, a million people now hurdle the Great Firewall via such dodges -- a number that remains a tiny fraction of all users, but that has spiked upward in the last year.
So the censors have taken other tacks to tighten their grip.
One is automation. China's leading instant-messaging service, called QQ, automatically installs a program on users' computers that monitors their communications and blocks censored text.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology tried last year to expand automated censorship nationwide through mandatory Green Dam software that could remotely update lists of banned topics. After an outcry from Internet users and corporations, the state backed off, but Green Dam or other filtering software remains installed on computers in some Internet cafes and schools. Last month, the government signaled that a version for cellphones was in the works.
Another strategy is manipulation. In recent years, local and provincial officials have hired armies of low-paid commentators to monitor blogs and chat rooms for sensitive issues, then spin online comment in the government's favor.
Mr. Xiao of Berkeley cites one example: Jiaozuo, a city southwest of Beijing, deployed 35 Internet commentators and 120 police officers to defuse online attacks on the local police after a traffic dispute. By flooding chat rooms with pro-police comments, the team turned the tone of online comment from negative to positive in just 20 minutes.
According to one official newspaper editor who refused to be named, propaganda authorities now calculate that confronted with a public controversy, local officials have a window of about two hours to block information and flood the Web with their own line before the reaction of citizens is beyond control.
Zhang Shihe, a self-identified citizen journalist and blogger with the pen name Tiger Temple, said the government ranked various bloggers by the risk they posed. "The most dangerous ones will be shut down, and some others will receive alerts from the government," he said.
Mr. Zhang's own blog posts are sometimes deleted. His workaround is to publish six blogs, hosted on different Internet sites: because censorship rules are vague and the censors merely human, a post that one blocks may be ignored or overlooked by another.
That may not last long. The consensus is that the government is rapidly getting better at its work.
Consider: One chilling new regulation limits those who can operate a site on China's .cn domain to registered businesses, and requires operators to produce Chinese identification. "In case they need to shut you down for some subversive content, they need to know how to find you," said an executive with one Beijing firm that hosts Web sites.
Major cities like Beijing -- which last year advertised for 10,000 voluntary Internet monitors -- are increasingly taking censorship into their own hands.
Pitted against this are those who argue that government chokeholds on the Internet cannot succeed. Bloggers like Mr. Zhang argue that growing restrictions on Internet speech only inflame ordinary users, and that bit by bit "people are pushing the wall back."
Or at least trying. At a recent meeting of Chinese Internet leaders in the southern city of Shenzhen, Ding Jian, who heads the Internet company AsiaInfo, proposed that Shenzhen be made a censorship-free zone as an experiment to determine whether China can stomach the chaos of an unfettered Internet. Strangling free speech, one entrepreneur argued, is likely to strangle innovation as well.
The Internet portal Net Ease published a report of the meeting. It was quickly deleted.
By John Markoff and David Barboza | The New York Times
April 05, 2010
Turning the tables on a China-based computer espionage gang, Canadian and United States computer security researchers have monitored a spying operation for the past eight months, observing while the intruders pilfered classified and restricted documents from the highest levels of the Indian Defense Ministry.
In a report issued Monday night, the researchers, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, provide a detailed account of how a spy operation it called the Shadow Network systematically hacked into personal computers in government offices on several continents.
The Toronto spy hunters not only learned what kinds of material had been stolen, but were able to see some of the documents, including classified assessments about security in several Indian states, and confidential embassy documents about India's relationships in West Africa, Russia and the Middle East. The intruders breached the systems of independent analysts, taking reports on several Indian missile systems. They also obtained a year's worth of the Dalai Lama's personal e-mail messages.
The intruders even stole documents related to the travel of NATO forces in Afghanistan, illustrating that even though the Indian government was the primary target of the attacks, one gap in computer security can leave many nations exposed.
"It's not only that you're only secure as the weakest link in your network," said Rafal Rohozinski, a member of the Toronto team. "But in an interconnected world, you're only as secure as the weakest link in the global chain of information."
As recently as early March, the Indian communications minister, Sachin Pilot, told reporters that government networks had been attacked by China, but that "not one attempt has been successful." But on March 24, the Toronto researchers said, they contacted intelligence officials in India and told them of the spy ring they had been tracking. They requested and were given instructions on how to dispose of the classified and restricted documents.
On Monday, Sitanshu Kar, a spokesman for the Indian Defense Ministry, said officials were "looking into" the report, but had no official statement.
The attacks look like the work of a criminal gang based in Sichuan Province, but as with all cyberattacks, it is easy to mask the true origin, the researchers said. Given the sophistication of the intruders and the targets of the operation, the researchers said, it is possible that the Chinese government approved of the spying.
When asked about the new report on Monday, a propaganda official in Sichuan's capital, Chengdu, said "it's ridiculous" to suggest that the Chinese government might have played a role. "The Chinese government considers hacking a cancer to the whole society," said the official, Ye Lao. Tensions have risen between China and the United States this year after a statement by Google in January that it and dozens of other companies had been the victims of computer intrusions coming from China.
The spy operation appears to be different from the Internet intruders identified by Google and from a surveillance ring known as Ghostnet, also believed to be operating from China, which the Canadian researchers identified in March of last year. Ghostnet used computer servers based largely on the island of Hainan to steal documents from the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, and governments and corporations in more than 103 countries.
The Ghostnet investigation led the researchers to this second Internet spy operation, which is the subject of their new report, titled "Shadows in the Cloud: An investigation Into Cyberespionage 2.0." The new report shows that the India-focused spy ring made extensive use of Internet services like Twitter, Google Groups, Blogspot, blog.com, Baidu Blogs and Yahoo! Mail to automate the control of computers once they had been infected.
The Canadian researchers cooperated in their investigation with a volunteer group of security experts in the United States at the Shadowserver Foundation, which focuses on Internet criminal activity.
"This would definitely rank in the sophisticated range," said Steven Adair, a security research with the group. "While we don't know exactly who's behind it, we know they selected their targets with great care."
By gaining access to the control servers used by the second cyber gang, the researchers observed the theft of a wide range of material, including classified documents from the Indian government and reports taken from Indian military analysts and corporations, as well as documents from agencies of the United Nations and other governments.
"We snuck around behind the backs of the attackers and picked their pockets," said Ronald J. Deibert, a political scientist who is director of the Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity research group at the Munk School. "I've not seen anything remotely close to the depth and the sensitivity of the documents that we've recovered."
The researchers said the second spy ring was more sophisticated and difficult to detect than the Ghostnet operation.
By examining a series of e-mail addresses, the investigators traced the attacks to hackers who appeared to be based in Chengdu, which is home to a large population from neighboring Tibet. Researchers believe that one hacker used the code name "lost33" and that he may have been affiliated with the city's prestigious University of Electronic Science and Technology. The university publishes books on computer hacking and offers courses in "network attack and defense technology" and "information conflict technology," according to its Web site.
The People's Liberation Army also operates a technical reconnaissance bureau in the city, and helps finance the university's research on computer network defense. A university spokesman could not be reached Monday because of a national holiday.
The investigators linked the account of another hacker to a Chengdu resident whose name appeared to be Mr. Li. Reached by telephone on Monday, Mr. Li denied taking part in computer hacking. Mr. Li, who declined to give his full name, said he must have been confused with someone else. He said he knew little about hacking. "That is not me," he said. "I'm a wine seller."
By Radio Free Asia
01 April 2010
China blacks out news about the trial of an activist who helped victims of a tainted milk scandal.
Chinese authorities have taken swift steps to censor online news and information about the trial of an activist who sought compensation for children who fell ill or died during a tainted milk scandal in 2008.
Zhao Lianhai, whose child was one of 300,000 made ill by infant formula milk laced with the industrial chemical melamine, went on trial behind closed doors in a Beijing court Tuesday, accused of "provoking social disorder."
Beijing-based civil rights lawyer Teng Biao posted the entire contents of Zhao's defense to his blog, but the post was deleted twice by censors, as were a series of subsequent comments by Chinese netizens.
Teng later said via the microblogging service Twitter that he believed "Zhao Lianhai" had been added to the list of "sensitive words" which would spark action from China's wide-ranging system of Internet blocks and filters.
A handful of Zhao's supporters, including his five-year-old son, appeared outside the Beijing Daxing District Court Tuesday for the six-hour hearing. His son held a placard which read "Daddy Come Home!".
"We are the victims," Zhao's wife, Li Xuemei, told reporters at the scene. "We already have it tough, with so many children [affected]."
"We still have had no redress. [The authorities] won't engage with us," Li said. "In fact they seek to suppress us instead. I don't understand it."
'Not enough evidence'
Zhao's lawyer, Peng Jian, said the state prosecution service hadn't provided enough evidence for some of the accusations it made against Zhao.
"There isn't enough evidence to establish that Zhao Lianhai instigated a gathering of the people concerned outside the Beijing municipal Public Security Bureau," Peng Jian said.
Peng added that one of the conditions necessary for establishing "trouble-making" as an offense was that the accused's actions should have let to a serious social disturbance, but evidence that this had occurred was also lacking.
Beijing-based civil rights lawyer Li Fangping said the families affected by the melamine-tainted milk should be regarded as the victims of a public health scandal.
"We believe that [Zhao] is a victim, along with all those families and those tens of thousands of children," Li said.
"His own child ... has been deeply affected by the poisoned milk."
Fellow activist Jiang Yalin said Zhao had left the court building wearing manacles.
"I am really at a loss to understand this," said Jiang, Zhao's colleague at the pressure group Kidney Stone Babies.
"Zhao hasn't even been accused of a very serious crime. Why does he have to wear leg-irons?" she said.
Zhao is accused of holding "illegal meetings and shouting slogans" leading to social disturbance, and could face a jail term of up to five years.
Milk powder seized
Authorities say almost all of the 25,100 tonnes of defective milk powder seized in the 2008 toxic baby food probe have now been incinerated and buried, official media reported earlier this month.
China's National Food Safety Rectification Office said only a small amount of tainted milk powder had been kept as samples, for example, for use in judicial procedures.
The announcement came after melamine was found in further dairy products in several Chinese provinces last year.
Three executives of Shanghai Panda Dairy Company were jailed for terms of three to five years earlier this month for their roles in the production and sale of melamine-tainted dairy products last year, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Original reporting in Cantonese by Bok Zimok and in Mandarin by Qiao Long. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
By Andrew Jacobs | The New York Times
30 March 2010
In what appears to be a coordinated assault, the e-mail accounts of more than a dozen rights activists, academics and journalists who cover China have been compromised by unknown intruders. A Chinese human rights organization also said that hackers disabled its Web site for a fifth straight day.
The infiltrations, which involved Yahoo e-mail accounts, appeared to be aimed at people who write about China and Taiwan, rendering their accounts inaccessible, according to those who were affected. In the case of this reporter, hackers altered e-mail settings so that all correspondence was surreptitiously forwarded to another e-mail address.
The attacks, most of which began last Thursday, occurred the same week that Google angered the Chinese government by routing Internet search engine requests out of the mainland to a site in Hong Kong. Google said the move was prompted by its objections to censorship rules and by a spate of attacks on Google e-mail users that the company suggested had originated in China.
Those cyberattacks, which began as early as last April, affected dozens of American corporations, law firms and individuals, many of them rights advocates critical of China's authoritarian government.
The victims of the most recent intrusions included a law professor in the United States, a Uyghur exile in Sweden, an analyst who writes about China's security apparatus and several print journalists based in Beijing and Taipei, the capital of Taiwan.
"It's very unsettling," said Clifford Coonan, a correspondent for The Irish Times and Variety magazine whose e-mail account was rendered inaccessible last week after Yahoo detected that someone had gained access to it remotely. "You can't help but wonder why you've been targeted."
Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, an organization that seeks greater autonomy for China's Xinjiang region, said many of the e-mail messages in one of his two Yahoo accounts appeared to have been read when he logged on in recent weeks. The other account, he said, had been inaccessible for a month.
Mr. Raxit also said that he was unable to reach three Uighur friends in China with whom he previously corresponded frequently. ''I'm 100 percent I've been hacked,'' he said from Sweden. ''I'm angry at the Chinese, but I blame Yahoo for allowing this to happen.''
In an e-mail exchange, Dana Lengkeek, a Yahoo spokeswoman, declined to discuss the incidents, citing company policy. "We are committed to protecting user security and privacy and we take appropriate action in the event of any kind of breach," Ms. Lengkeek said.
Kathleen McLaughlin, an American freelance journalist in Beijing who sits on the board of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China, said the group has confirmed that 10 journalists, including herself, had their accounts compromised.
Like the others, said she received a message from Yahoo on Thursday indicating that her account had been disabled because, according to an automated message, "we have detected an issue with your account."
She said she contacted Yahoo but has yet to receive an explanation of what happened. "Someone is clearly targeting journalists," she said. "It makes me feel very uncomfortable."
Yahoo, which in 2005 sold its China operations to the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, has faced criticism for cooperating with government security officials in the past. In 2004, Yahoo turned over data that officials used to help prosecute several dissidents. One, a journalist named Shi Tao, was later given a 10-year sentence for leaking a secret propaganda directive.
Although the company owns a 39 percent stake in Alibaba, Ms. Lengkeek, the Yahoo spokeswoman, stressed that Yahoo no longer has operational control over the China business.
Unlike services offered by Google and Microsoft, emails sent through Yahoo's Chinese domain, .cn, are stored on local servers and subject to Chinese law, a factor that has driven some privacy-conscious users away from Yahoo's e-mail services.
Computer security experts say infiltration of Yahoo's e-mail service once again highlights the challenges that Internet companies face in protecting their customers from hackers.
Paul Wood, a senior analyst at the Symantec Corporation, said a growing number of malignant viruses were tailored to specific recipients, with the goal of tricking them into opening attachments that would insert malware onto their computers. Mr. Wood said his company, which designs anti-virus software, now blocks about 60 such attacks each day, up from 1 or 2 a week in 2005. "They're very well crafted and extremely damaging," he said.
A report issued by Symantec on Monday found that nearly 30 percent of attacks originated from computers in China; about 20 percent of those came from Shaoxing, a relatively obscure city in Zhejiang Province previously known for winemaking.
Mr. Wood and other experts point out that attacks appearing to come from a certain location can just as easily be emanating from computers infected with botnets, a virus that allows them be controlled remotely by other computing systems.
It is this kind of rogue software that is probably responsible for crippling the Web site of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a group that has been an assertive critic of China's human rights violations. Since last Thursday, the group's Chinese-language site has been overwhelmed by hackers flooding it with junk requests, a tactic known as denial of service. Although the site has been attacked before, the attacks did not last more than a few hours.
Renee Xia, the international director for the human rights group, said the assault began the same day the American company that is host to its site, Go Daddy, announced that it would stop registering domain names in China. "Maybe it's a coincidence, but we don't think so," Ms. Xia said.