Following recent friction between China and Australia over alleged espionage by a senior executive of mining company Rio Tinto, the two countries are having another row — this time about a documentary film. This year’s Melbourne International Film Festival includes showings of Australian director Jeff Daniels’ documentary The 10 Conditions of Love, a portrayal of World Uyghur Congress president Rebiya Kadeer and her struggle for freedom and human rights in East Turkestan (Xinjiang). Kadeer has been invited by the festival’s organizers to attend a screening of the film on Aug. 8.
This move has angered China, which called on the Australians to withdraw the Kadeer film, but the festival organizers turned down Beijing’s request.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) said: “We resolutely oppose any foreign country providing a platform for her anti-Chinese, splittist activities.”
Chinese producer Jia Zhangke (賈樟柯), director Zhao Liang (趙亮) and Hong Kong director Emily Tang (唐曉白) have withdrawn their entries from the festival, while China mobilized its film industry to protest against Australia.
Festival director Richard Moore was angered by the political interference and refused China’s unreasonable demands.
However, withdrawing a couple of films was not enough for China in its attempts to teach Australia a lesson. On Saturday, Chinese hackers broke into the festival’s Web site and posted China’s five-star red flag along with the words: “We like film, but we hate Rebiya Kadeer! We like peace, and we hate East Turkistan terrorist! Please apologize to all the Chinese people!” with the Chinese national anthem playing in the background.
The flag image was hosted at oldjun.com, a Web site registered in Shanghai. Although it is reportedly a personal Web site, it should be borne in mind that China is said to have an army of at least 300,000 “patriotic” hackers.
This is by no means the first time China has used hackers against targets in other countries. In April, the Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese hackers had penetrated a computer network and stolen secret information about Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike fighter jet. On May 13, the South Korean military released a report saying China had three teams of hackers who attack overseas networks and steal secrets.
There have been several similar instances.
Until recently, Chinese hackers limited their activities to penetrating foreign government and commercial networks to steal confidential information, but recently they have turned their attention to ordinary Web sites like that of the Melbourne International Film Festival.
Another attack took place on June 11, when Chinese hackers broke into the well-known Taiwanese Web site socialforce.net, posting a big Chinese flag and causing such damage to the site that it still has not resumed operation. The Web site came under attack because it was critical of Taiwan’s pro-unification media, Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government and Chinese Web sites.
These days any Web site that arouses China’s displeasure can come under attack. Australia has been targeted even though it has good relations with China. Taiwan’s government is even more China-friendly, but it cannot escape the same fate. Earlier this year, a survey released by the Canada-based Information Warfare Monitor said that Taiwan was among the countries most often targeted by Chinese hackers.
If even an innocuous film festival Web site is subject to Chinese hacking, who can feel safe?
Hsu Chien-jung is a doctoral candidate at Monash University, Australia.
TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG
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