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By Nicole Perlroth | The New York Times
31 January 2013
For the last four months, Chinese hackers have persistently attacked The New York Times, infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees.
After surreptitiously tracking the intruders to study their movements and help erect better defenses to block them, The Times and computer security experts have expelled the attackers and kept them from breaking back in.
The timing of the attacks coincided with the reporting for a Times investigation, published online on Oct. 25, that found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China's prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings.
Security experts hired by The Times to detect and block the computer attacks gathered digital evidence that Chinese hackers, using methods that some consultants have associated with the Chinese military in the past, breached The Times's network. They broke into the e-mail accounts of its Shanghai bureau chief, David Barboza, who wrote the reports on Mr. Wen's relatives, and Jim Yardley, The Times's South Asia bureau chief in India, who previously worked as bureau chief in Beijing.
"Computer security experts found no evidence that sensitive e-mails or files from the reporting of our articles about the Wen family were accessed, downloaded or copied," said Jill Abramson, executive editor of The Times.
The hackers tried to cloak the source of the attacks on The Times by first penetrating computers at United States universities and routing the attacks through them, said computer security experts at Mandiant, the company hired by The Times. This matches the subterfuge used in many other attacks that Mandiant has tracked to China.
The attackers first installed malware -- malicious software -- that enabled them to gain entry to any computer on The Times's network. The malware was identified by computer security experts as a specific strain associated with computer attacks originating in China. More evidence of the source, experts said, is that the attacks started from the same university computers used by the Chinese military to attack United States military contractors in the past.
Security experts found evidence that the hackers stole the corporate passwords for every Times employee and used those to gain access to the personal computers of 53 employees, most of them outside The Times's newsroom. Experts found no evidence that the intruders used the passwords to seek information that was not related to the reporting on the Wen family.
No customer data was stolen from The Times, security experts said.
Asked about evidence that indicated the hacking originated in China, and possibly with the military, China's Ministry of National Defense said, "Chinese laws prohibit any action including hacking that damages Internet security." It added that "to accuse the Chinese military of launching cyberattacks without solid proof is unprofessional and baseless."
The attacks appear to be part of a broader computer espionage campaign against American news media companies that have reported on Chinese leaders and corporations.
Last year, Bloomberg News was targeted by Chinese hackers, and some employees' computers were infected, according to a person with knowledge of the company's internal investigation, after Bloomberg published an article on June 29 about the wealth accumulated by relatives of Xi Jinping, China's vice president at the time. Mr. Xi became general secretary of the Communist Party in November and is expected to become president in March. Ty Trippet, a spokesman for Bloomberg, confirmed that hackers had made attempts but said that "no computer systems or computers were compromised."
Signs of a Campaign
The mounting number of attacks that have been traced back to China suggest that hackers there are behind a far-reaching spying campaign aimed at an expanding set of targets including corporations, government agencies, activist groups and media organizations inside the United States. The intelligence-gathering campaign, foreign policy experts and computer security researchers say, is as much about trying to control China's public image, domestically and abroad, as it is about stealing trade secrets.
Security experts said that beginning in 2008, Chinese hackers began targeting Western journalists as part of an effort to identify and intimidate their sources and contacts, and to anticipate stories that might damage the reputations of Chinese leaders.
In a December intelligence report for clients, Mandiant said that over the course of several investigations it found evidence that Chinese hackers had stolen e-mails, contacts and files from more than 30 journalists and executives at Western news organizations, and had maintained a "short list" of journalists whose accounts they repeatedly attack.
While computer security experts say China is most active and persistent, it is not alone in using computer attacks for a variety of national purposes, including corporate espionage. The United States, Israel, Russia and Iran, among others, are suspected of developing and deploying cyberweapons.
The United States and Israel have never publicly acknowledged it, but evidence indicates they released a sophisticated computer worm starting around 2008 that attacked and later caused damage at Iran's main nuclear enrichment plant. Iran is believed to have responded with computer attacks on targets in the United States, including American banks and foreign oil companies.
Russia is suspected of having used computer attacks during its war with Georgia in 2008.
The following account of the attack on The Times -- which is based on interviews with Times executives, reporters and security experts -- provides a glimpse into one such spy campaign.
After The Times learned of warnings from Chinese government officials that its investigation of the wealth of Mr. Wen's relatives would "have consequences," executives on Oct. 24 asked AT&T, which monitors The Times's computer network, to watch for unusual activity.
On Oct. 25, the day the article was published online, AT&T informed The Times that it had noticed behavior that was consistent with other attacks believed to have been perpetrated by the Chinese military.
The Times notified and voluntarily briefed the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the attacks and then -- not initially recognizing the extent of the infiltration of its computers -- worked with AT&T to track the attackers even as it tried to eliminate them from its systems.
But on Nov. 7, when it became clear that attackers were still inside its systems despite efforts to expel them, The Times hired Mandiant, which specializes in responding to security breaches. Since learning of the attacks, The Times -- first with AT&T and then with Mandiant -- has monitored attackers as they have moved around its systems.
Hacker teams regularly began work, for the most part, at 8 a.m. Beijing time. Usually they continued for a standard work day, but sometimes the hacking persisted until midnight. Occasionally, the attacks stopped for two-week periods, Mandiant said, though the reason was not clear.
Investigators still do not know how hackers initially broke into The Times's systems. They suspect the hackers used a so-called spear-phishing attack, in which they send e-mails to employees that contain malicious links or attachments. All it takes is one click on the e-mail by an employee for hackers to install "remote access tools" -- or RATs. Those tools can siphon off oceans of data -- passwords, keystrokes, screen images, documents and, in some cases, recordings from computers' microphones and Web cameras -- and send the information back to the attackers' Web servers.
Michael Higgins, chief security officer at The Times, said: "Attackers no longer go after our firewall. They go after individuals. They send a malicious piece of code to your e-mail account and you're opening it and letting them in."
Lying in Wait
Once hackers get in, it can be hard to get them out. In the case of a 2011 breach at the United States Chamber of Commerce, for instance, the trade group worked closely with the F.B.I. to seal its systems, according to chamber employees. But months later, the chamber discovered that Internet-connected devices -- a thermostat in one of its corporate apartments and a printer in its offices -- were still communicating with computers in China.
In part to prevent that from happening, The Times allowed hackers to spin a digital web for four months to identify every digital back door the hackers used. It then replaced every compromised computer and set up new defenses in hopes of keeping hackers out.
"Attackers target companies for a reason -- even if you kick them out, they will try to get back in," said Nick Bennett, the security consultant who has managed Mandiant's investigation. "We wanted to make sure we had full grasp of the extent of their access so that the next time they try to come in, we can respond quickly."
Based on a forensic analysis going back months, it appears the hackers broke into The Times computers on Sept. 13, when the reporting for the Wen articles was nearing completion. They set up at least three back doors into users' machines that they used as a digital base camp. From there they snooped around The Times's systems for at least two weeks before they identified the domain controller that contains user names and hashed, or scrambled, passwords for every Times employee.
While hashes make hackers' break-ins more difficult, hashed passwords can easily be cracked using so-called rainbow tables -- readily available databases of hash values for nearly every alphanumeric character combination, up to a certain length. Some hacker Web sites publish as many as 50 billion hash values.
Investigators found evidence that the attackers cracked the passwords and used them to gain access to a number of computers. They created custom software that allowed them to search for and grab Mr. Barboza's and Mr. Yardley's e-mails and documents from a Times e-mail server.
Over the course of three months, attackers installed 45 pieces of custom malware. The Times -- which uses antivirus products made by Symantec -- found only one instance in which Symantec identified an attacker's software as malicious and quarantined it, according to Mandiant.
A Symantec spokesman said that, as a matter of policy, the company does not comment on its customers.
The attackers were particularly active in the period after the Oct. 25 publication of The Times article about Mr. Wen's relatives, especially on the evening of the Nov. 6 presidential election. That raised concerns among Times senior editors who had been informed of the attacks that the hackers might try to shut down the newspaper's electronic or print publishing system. But the attackers' movements suggested that the primary target remained Mr. Barboza's e-mail correspondence.
"They could have wreaked havoc on our systems," said Marc Frons, the Times's chief information officer. "But that was not what they were after."
What they appeared to be looking for were the names of people who might have provided information to Mr. Barboza.
Mr. Barboza's research on the stories, as reported previously in The Times, was based on public records, including thousands of corporate documents through China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce. Those documents -- which are available to lawyers and consulting firms for a nominal fee -- were used to trace the business interests of relatives of Mr. Wen.
A Tricky Search
Tracking the source of an attack to one group or country can be difficult because hackers usually try to cloak their identities and whereabouts.
To run their Times spying campaign, the attackers used a number of compromised computer systems registered to universities in North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin and New Mexico, as well as smaller companies and Internet service providers across the United States, according to Mandiant's investigators.
The hackers also continually switched from one I.P. address to another; an I.P. address, for Internet protocol, is a unique number identifying each Internet-connected device from the billions around the globe, so that messages and other information sent by one device are correctly routed to the ones meant to get them.
Using university computers as proxies and switching I.P. addresses were simply efforts to hide the source of the attacks, which investigators say is China. The pattern that Mandiant's experts detected closely matched the pattern of earlier attacks traced to China. After Google was attacked in 2010 and the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists were opened, for example, investigators were able to trace the source to two educational institutions in China, including one with ties to the Chinese military.
Security experts say that by routing attacks through servers in other countries and outsourcing attacks to skilled hackers, the Chinese military maintains plausible deniability.
"If you look at each attack in isolation, you can't say, 'This is the Chinese military,' " said Richard Bejtlich, Mandiant's chief security officer.
But when the techniques and patterns of the hackers are similar, it is a sign that the hackers are the same or affiliated.
"When you see the same group steal data on Chinese dissidents and Tibetan activists, then attack an aerospace company, it starts to push you in the right direction," he said.
Mandiant has been tracking about 20 groups that are spying on organizations inside the United States and around the globe. Its investigators said that based on the evidence -- the malware used, the command and control centers compromised and the hackers' techniques -- The Times was attacked by a group of Chinese hackers that Mandiant refers to internally as "A.P.T. Number 12."
A.P.T. stands for Advanced Persistent Threat, a term that computer security experts and government officials use to describe a targeted attack and that many say has become synonymous with attacks done by China. AT&T and the F.B.I. have been tracking the same group, which they have also traced to China, but they use their own internal designations.
Mandiant said the group had been "very active" and had broken into hundreds of other Western organizations, including several American military contractors.
To get rid of the hackers, The Times blocked the compromised outside computers, removed every back door into its network, changed every employee password and wrapped additional security around its systems.
For now, that appears to have worked, but investigators and Times executives say they anticipate more efforts by hackers.
"This is not the end of the story," said Mr. Bejtlich of Mandiant. "Once they take a liking to a victim, they tend to come back. It's not like a digital crime case where the intruders steal stuff and then they're gone. This requires an internal vigilance model."
By Damian Grammaticas | BBC World News
October 08, 2012
China's Communist rulers are trying to force the country's jailed Peace Prize laureate into going into exile by putting pressure on his wife, who is not well, the BBC has been told.
A source close to the family has told us that Liu Xiaobo will not agree to leave China as that would lead to his voice being marginalised.
But the source said that Liu Xiaobo's wife Liu Xia is "suffering mentally" because she has now spent two years under illegal house arrest and continues to be detained.
It was exactly two years ago when Liu Xiaobo, a soft-spoken academic, won the Peace Prize for his calls for peaceful political reform in China.
He never collected it as he was already in a jail in China, where he remains, convicted of subversion.
His wife Liu Xia, an even softer-spoken poet and photographer, has been similarly silenced. She's being held in her own flat in Beijing.
She's been there for two years, detained just a couple of days after her husband was announced as the 2010 winner.
And Norway too is, it seems, still being punished. The prize has nothing to do with the Norwegian government.
But China continues to snub Norwegian ministers, diplomats and politicians, according to other diplomats in Beijing.
But the BBC has spoken to an individual in contact with Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia's families, who has given some new insights into the couple's situation.
The individual asked that we don't name them, and told us that Liu Xiaobo is in reasonable health, but his stomach problem "is getting worse".
China's authorities allow only three people to visit Liu Xiaobo in Jinzhou prison where he's being held: his two brothers who can see him about once every six months, and his wife who sees the Nobel Peace Prize winner every two to three months, the source said.
They have to ask for permission in advance and wait for notification.
"They are not allowed to go and visit him together. Only one person is allowed each time. And the police watch them during the entire meeting," our source told us.
"They are forbidden to talk about anything else other than family matters. The police don't want the family to bring in any information from outside to Liu Xiaobo."
The two brothers did visit together once, in September last year. That was to inform Liu Xiaobo that his father had died. He was then allowed a brief visit home to pay his respects before he was whisked back to jail.
His wife, Liu Xia, meanwhile, has not committed any crime in China but is being held in her home.
"There are two policewomen living with her in her apartment. And lots of plain-clothes police watching the compound constantly," our source told us.
"Liu Xia's health is not very well. Mentally she suffers a lot because of the loss of personal freedom and the worries about her jailed husband."
"She is allowed to go out and visit her mother and meet one of her best friends roughly once a month, escorted by policewomen the entire time. Other than visits to her husband, that's it.
"She is not allowed to go anywhere else, not even to the park or shop. And no-one is allowed to even approach her compound, let alone visit her."
The individual added: "What the government is doing to Liu Xia is illegal. They do this routinely to dissidents in order to prevent them speaking to the press and tainting the government's image.
"Her husband is currently the most famous dissident in China, so she suffers tighter control than other dissidents."
His view is backed up by Joshua Rosenzweig, a human rights researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who said he was "not aware of any legal authority for restricting Liu Xia's liberty".
"Her relegation to this ambiguous zone appears to be deliberate, because if you can't treat [her detention] as something sanctioned or even covered by law, then how do you begin to challenge it? Liu Xia effectively ceases to exist, both as a human being and as an issue," he said.
China's government insists Liu Xia is not being held against her will. But Mr Rosenzweig says its aim is to silence Liu Xia, her husband and their families, so there is no news about the jailed laureate.
"One of the few ways the outside world has to learn anything about individuals who have been imprisoned in China is through what their relatives learn and observe during periodic prison visits," he says.
"I don't know the last time that Liu Xia was able to visit her husband, but I am fairly certain that any interaction she has been able to have with him has been under the precondition that she remain silent.
"To the extent that this reflects an official strategy to counter Liu Xiaobo's influence, it would have to be deemed successful. There's only so much interest that can be sustained by a person's continued absence.
"That's why you don't see too many headlines proclaiming 'no news of Nobel laureate again this month'."
And the friend of the family who spoke to the BBC says that, by being so harsh on his wife, China is trying to pressure Liu Xiaobo into cutting a deal to go into exile.
"The government is trying to force Liu Xiaobo to leave China by taking his wife's personal freedom away. At the same time, the government threatens both their families, saying if they try to speak to the media or leak any information their right to visit Liu Xiaobo will be taken away.
"This is very cruel. It has forced the family to keep quiet."
But, the family friend added, Liu Xiaobo will not agree to leave China, despite the fact that his prison term lasts until 2020.
"The government has always wanted Liu Xiaobo to leave China because the fact that a Nobel Peace Prize winner is in jail, is a constant reminder of China's poor human rights situation.
"When previous dissidents have left China their voices gradually fade and their influence disappears. That's why Liu Xiaobo insists he'll stay even if it means staying in jail. Remaining in China is what's significant for him."
By Marc Santora and Jeffrey E. Singer | The New York Times
September 01, 2012
A year ago, Cao Erxing and his wife, Chen Zengrong, both 56, were killed in a high-speed train crash in China. But it was not until Saturday that their relatives in New York City were finally able to gather to mourn their loss and bury their loved ones.
And though the accident was in 2011, the pain was fresh at the memorial service for the couple in Elmhurst, Queens.
"They are gone, they are gone," one relative cried. "We will never see them again."
The memorial and burial service seemed to offer some dignity in an ordeal that began with one of the biggest rail disasters in China's history, which left 40 people dead and 191 passengers injured in July 2011.
The accident rattled the Chinese government and raised questions about the safety of the nation's high-speed rail system, an ambitious public-works project that has been used as a symbol of China's emergence as a global power.
Yet for the Cao family, the accident was only the beginning of the tragedy.
For more than a year, the Cao sons -- Henry, who was severely injured in the crash, and Leo -- have been caught up in a confusing and often maddening bureaucratic nightmare. They have raised questions about their mother's treatment immediately after the accident, and fought government officials for adequate compensation and to bring their parents' bodies home.
"I don't want them to go down in history as just anonymous Americans who died," Leo Cao said. "I want people to know these people lived. Their lives meant something."
Cao Erxing and his wife left their home in Fujian Province for New York in the 1980s. For the couple, equipped with only middle school educations and no English skills, life was a struggle from the start.
Mr. Cao worked as a dishwasher but was felled by mental illness. To support the family, his wife took a job as a seamstress, working grueling hours for little pay.
With their parents, who were naturalized American citizens, doing all they could to scrape by, the Cao brothers were often left on their own.
Still, Leo said, he was able to enroll at Stony Brook University when he was 16 and graduated when he was 19.
His brother, Henry, was also forging ahead in his career in the import business.
The family worked hard and was eventually able to buy a house in Queens.
The trip to China was the first vacation that the parents ever took, their first chance to return to their birthplace and reconnect with relatives they had not seen in years, their family said.
But what was supposed to be a joyous occasion turned to disaster when the train in which they were riding rear-ended another train in the eastern city of Wenzhou, sending several cars careering off the tracks and plummeting off an overpass.
Henry, who was traveling with his parents, had to have his spleen and a kidney removed as a result of his injuries, which also included a broken ankle and ribs.
"I can't keep going on like before," he said. "Before the crash, I used to play with my children often. No more."
While Henry recovered, Leo began to wage what turned out to be a lengthy battle with the Chinese authorities.
Immediately after the accident, victims' families were warned against holding public memorials. The Cao family wanted to hold a ceremony in its ancestral village, but the authorities forbade it. Instead, the family had to settle for a ceremony in the city where the crash took place.
But it was not until 150 friends and family members gathered at the Gerard Neufeld Funeral Home in Elmhurst on Saturday that they could mourn properly. Last month, the brothers went to China to collect the remains.
Many of the relatives in America were able to come here with the assistance of the Cao family, and many were inconsolable in their grief.
While the brothers' struggle with the Chinese government has garnered wide attention, the comments at the service were focused on the moment: paying tribute to the dead and offering blessings.
"It's been a very bad year," Leo said after the service. "The reason we need to get this over with is for my family, my brother."
Still, he said, he anticipated more fighting with Chinese officials over compensation claims.
"My brother, his family, my parents, we lost so much," he said. "We can't just lay down."
But Henry said, "I just try and forget."
By Andrew Jacobs | The New York Times
August 28, 2012
Henry Cao has stark memories of the moment the high-speed train he was riding rear-ended another last summer in the eastern city of Wenzhou: the pleasantly hypnotic rocking that gave way to a jolt he likened to an earthquake, followed by blackness and the sensation of falling as the car plummeted 100 feet off a viaduct.
"We were flying like rag dolls," he said.
The crash killed 40 passengers, injured 191 and shook the nation's confidence in its ambitious high-speed rail system. Mr. Cao, 33, a Chinese-American importer from Colorado, barely survived; he lost a kidney and his spleen, and head injuries have left him mired in a perpetual daze, unable to stay awake for more than an hour or two. His parents, naturalized American citizens taking him on a triumphant tour of their native land, were killed.
As Mr. Cao has struggled to recover over the past year, he has found himself drained by a different sort of battle: trying to wrest compensation from the Ministry of Railways, an unbending government behemoth unaccustomed to dealing with determined foreign citizens.
This month Mr. Cao returned to China for the first time since the accident. He and his brother, Leo, came to collect their parents' remains and to press negotiations with the ministry. "They know how to wear you down," said Leo Cao, 30. "First they let you scream and yell, then they stall you, and finally they tell you vague and empty words. Now they say, 'You're lucky you're getting anything.' "
Their painful and politically fraught odyssey has highlighted the workings of an omnipotent ministry that employs more than two million people and rivals the Chinese military in size and influence. The experience has been disorienting for the Cao brothers, who left China as adolescents two decades ago. "This place is not how I remember it," said Henry Cao, speaking faintly as his eyes flickered and lost focus. "Everyone is rushing around to make money. Life here is cheap."
The ministry, which runs its own court system and is largely impervious to oversight, has long been dogged by accusations of corruption. A former rails minister, Liu Zhijun, who was fired five months before the accident, is expected to go on trial next month for charges of taking millions of dollars in bribes and other unnamed "disciplinary violations."
Zhang Kai, a lawyer who represented a passenger sentenced to three years in prison for slapping a train conductor, described the ministry as a "monster left over from the planned economy era" that resists reform or challenges to its authority. "It is common knowledge that the ministry is responsible for generating maximum profits while supervising itself," Mr. Zhang said.
In a report released in December, government investigators placed the blame for the Wenzhou accident on flaws in signaling equipment. Investigators say the ministry bypassed safety regulations in its haste to create the world's largest high-speed railroad network.
For the brothers' parents -- Cao Erxing and his wife, Chen Zengrong, both 56 -- the return to China was a capstone to lives of toil in New York City sweatshops and restaurant kitchens. The father and mother, neither of whom studied beyond middle school, had left Fujian Province with their boys, taught themselves English and earned enough money to buy a house in Queens. At the time of their death, they were custodial workers at La Guardia Airport.
"They finally felt financially secure enough to take their first vacation," Leo Cao said.
His father died at the scene, but his mother survived for two hours, leaving haunting unanswered questions. Did she receive adequate medical care? And who was heartless enough to swipe the $10,000 from the fanny pack fastened to her waist?
In the parlance of Communist Party euphemisms, July 23 has become a "sensitive anniversary" -- a day for newspaper editors and columnists to ignore. After a blizzard of coverage in the days after the crash -- including reports of a botched rescue and efforts to bury one of the train carriages -- the censors blocked discussions of the topic on microblog services. Last month, victims' families were warned against holding public memorials.
But the Cao brothers, ignoring such admonitions, have become thorns in the side of the government as they seek financial assistance.
In a series of meetings, ministry officials have offered them $280,000 for the death of their parents and $85,000 for Henry Cao's injuries, the brothers said. The Caos have requested a total of $5 million, based on what they say the three would have earned over 20 years of working in the United States.
Their lawyers say the ministry is ignoring a national law that bases compensation on accident victims' earning power in the area where they lived. The ministry is citing its own regulations that rely on prevailing wages in the province where the crash occurred.
"The representatives tell us there is no room for negotiation," said a lawyer for the brothers, Tian Jie. "Even they admit they don't know who makes the decisions."
Officials did not respond to a faxed request for comment, and repeated telephone calls to the ministry's office of public information last week were not answered.
Leo Cao said that his brother was too disabled to work and that the offered compensation would not go very far in supporting his four young children and paying for his medical expenses. "From the outside, my brother looks somewhat normal, but he's half the man he used to be," he said.
The ministry's minders stay in the same hotel as the brothers, paying for their accommodations and carrying their luggage. But they frequently call to find out where the brothers are. Negotiators have warned of "troubles" that might result from talking to journalists.
This month, as the brothers wept over their parents' coffins at a funeral home in Wenzhou, ministry employees huddled awkwardly. "If they lose track of us they get scolded," Leo Cao later said with weary resignation.
In the hours after the accident, ministry negotiators descended on morgues and hospitals even before the surgeons had finished stitching up the injured. Working in teams of four or five, they separated victims' families into different hotels and relentlessly hammered out deals that in the end were nearly the same: about $140,000 for each fatality.
For the past year, the Cao brothers have angered officials by refusing to remove their parents' bodies from the morgue. Leo Cao, who was completing a doctorate in information sciences at the time of the crash, said he had been partly overwhelmed by the medical needs of his brother.
But he also came to hope the delay might help persuade the ministry to compromise, and also allow a funeral service in the family's ancestral Fujianese village. Officials refused, perhaps fearful it would draw other disgruntled survivors.
Still, the brothers held a makeshift memorial service at the funeral home and then stopped at the site of the crash. Last Wednesday, they arranged for the bodies to be shipped to New York. The funeral, scheduled for Saturday in Queens, is expected to draw hundreds of Fujianese immigrants.
As the talks dragged on, Henry Cao became increasingly withdrawn, saying he was no longer interested in the money and wanted only to return home. He spent most of his last days in China in his hotel room, reading biblical stories that touch on suffering and redemption. "I want to move on," he said, staring at the floor.
But for now, his brother is determined to keep fighting and says he is prepared to file a lawsuit in Chinese court, even though several lawyers have advised him it would be futile. "It's not only about money," Leo Cao said. "I want justice."
Among the hundreds of photographs recovered from their father's iPhone from his first and final vacation in China, one image stands out: a shaky snapshot of the LED monitor that graced the carriage of their train boasting that it was moving at 303 kilometers an hour, or 188 m.p.h.
"My father was so proud of China's progress," Leo Cao said. "Unfortunately it was China's progress that killed my parents."
Mia Li contributed research from Beijing.
By Damian Grammaticas | BBC World News
23 August 2012
The moment Liu Xiang crashed out of the 110m hurdles was, for millions of Chinese television viewers, one of the most dramatic, heart-rending moments of the London Olympics.
But now many have been left feeling duped after it emerged that almost everyone, except for the television audience, knew Liu, China's great hope on the track, was injured and unlikely to have a chance of wining gold.
What's particularly angered people is that CCTV, China's state broadcaster, knew Liu Xiang was not fit and scripted its whole coverage in advance.
The revelation was front-page news in the Oriental Guardian newspaper. Its headline said: "Liu Xiang knew; Officials knew. Only the viewers foolishly waited for the moment of miracles."
When Liu Xiang hit the first hurdle and fell, CCTV's commentator Yang Jian was almost in tears, his voice choking, his commentary emotional.
"He's 29, an old athlete... he should rest now." Yang Jian told the viewers.
"This is the worst outcome I have thought of today. If an athlete does not have a good leg, it's like a soldier without a gun."
But, the Oriental Guardian says,"Yang Jian's commentary was too perfect to be real." The words, and the tears, were pre-scripted.
It says the deception came to light on Wednesday, when the head of CCTV's commentary team admitted at a public seminar that Yang Jian had heard that Liu had a serious injury.
The paper says CCTV's managers instructed their commentator to prepare four separate scripts to cover all eventualities. "The 'crying' version was one of the four."
Liu Xiang is a national hero in China. He won China's first-ever track and field gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
He was the face of the Beijing Olympics and a stunned nation watched him limp off the track there too, sidelined by the same Achilles-tendon injury.
Liu Xiang, who won China's first-ever gold in track and field, is seen as a hero
The state-controlled English-language China Daily says "the craze that has followed him is similar to Yao Ming's effect on China's basketball... almost all Chinese sports fans' hearts synchronise with the fluctuations of Liu's performance."
It's unsurprising then that so many now feel deceived and angered, emotionally manipulated by CCTV's commentary. The story has drawn well over a million comments on China's weibo micro-blog service.
"I feel truly disgusted. Is it worth the true feelings of so many people? Emotions and deceptions have been perfectly merged. Tears and courage have been downgraded to be worthless. Media that has no bottom line is a rotten entity without hope," wrote one user.
Others were even more blunt, posting comments like, "You lied to us, cheated our feelings. You guys are rubbish," and "Nothing is impossible in this world. We no longer want to be a public that doesn't know the truth."
And it's not just CCTV, but China's government too, that is in the firing line.
"This can only happen in China. Acting and fraud and many skills are learnt from the government," said one user.
"The society has no trust. This original sin does not come from the people. Trust has to be built by a trustworthy government and media," wrote another.
China's government already faces a public that is sceptical about the honesty of what they hear from officials and the official media.
The coverage of Liu Xiang's Olympics seems to have provided one more reason for people to be cynical.