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WikiLeaks: Top Chinese Officials Ordered Hacking of Google

5 Dec 2010

WikiLeaks recently released a secret cable entitled “Google China Paying Price for Resisting Censorship,” sent from the American Embassy in Beijing to Washington on May 18 of last year. One of numerous leaked cables that suggest the CCP’s insecurity over the power of the internet, the document reveals that Chinese officials directed a recent online assault against Google.

These cables detail hacking missions that started in China, targeting computers of US diplomats, especially regarding climate change talks. They also recount the pressure Google was under to follow Chinese censorship legislation. The Chinese required much more than the censorship of content related to the Dalai-Lama and the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, for example Chinese officials unsuccessfully demanded that Google Earth be censored to prevent “terrorism.” Google complied to most Chinese censorship laws, up until the early spring of 2010, after China hacked Google’s proprietary source code and email accounts of Chinese political dissidents.

China’s leading propaganda official and member of the Politburo, Li Changchun, was said to have been personally involved in attacking Google’s ventures in China. This was apparently after he found critical information about himself on Google. Other members of Chinese government, such as Zhou Yongkang, a top security official, and Liu Yunshan, the director of the Propaganda Department, were also cited as having led hacks against Google. However, these cables sometimes gave inconsistent accounts, accurately described by the NYtimes as providing us a “patchwork of detail about cyberattacks that American officials believe originated in China with either the assistance or knowledge of the Chinese military.”

On the one hand this shows personal anxieties of individual Chinese leaders, but more importantly, reveals widespread insecurity over the internet’s threat to power amongst China’s top government officials. Although actions of these officials may threaten Google commercially, how long will the Internet remain “controllable”?

I wonder whether this WikiLeaks drama will have American investment affects on Chinese video sharing services Youku and Tudou, both companies which plan to list on U.S. stock exchanges next week.

[via NYtimes and LeMonde]

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