Chinese Rights Websites Hit by Suspected Hacker Attack, Great Firewall Blockade

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A rights and citizen journalism website based in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan said its operations have been paralyzed by a hacker attack on Tuesday, while a second site said its domain name is once more blocked on China’s tightly controlled Internet.

Activist Huang Qi, who founded the Tianwang website, said the home page and articles were unaffected by the attack by unknown hackers.

“But we can’t get into the interface for contributors to post copy, which means that we have no way to post articles to the website,” Huang said.

He said the group had taken to posting articles on social media platforms Google+ and Facebook, which are blocked to the majority of users inside China, and the group’s blog.

“We have been unable to post articles since around 10 a.m.,” Huang said. “The registration page is also broken. I think it’s been attacked.”

Tianwang, which started out as a resource for relatives of those killed or injured in the military crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy movement, soon changed its focus to cover ordinary Chinese who seek to defend their rights in the face of official abuses of power.

It often posts the stories that rarely find expression in China’s tightly controlled, state-run media, and that are often deleted from social media sites soon after they appear.

Currently, at least four of its citizen journalists are in detention amid an ever-widening crackdown on freedom of expression and nongovernmental groups in the country, the Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) said in a recent report.

“Tianwang has a lot of articles, many of them about folk heroes like retired military officers and farmers who have lost their land,” Huang said.

“Tianwang has a lot of news about farmers standing up for their rights, and also about ordinary citizens who get detained, including details of their trials and issues like torture and mistreatment in prison,” he said.

“I think that is the reason it has been attacked.”

Huang said the cyberattack was likely the 20th since the beginning of the year.

“It causes a lot of problems for our work,” he said.

Rights website shut down

Meanwhile, rights website Watchdog Net for Citizens and Public Opinion was shut down in recent days, founder Li Xinde told RFA.

“Our registration number has been canceled [for the Chinese hosted site], and our … domain name from our server in the United States has been blocked,” Li said.

“Everyone knows our website’s main theme is anti-corruption, and another big theme is rights activism.”

Li said it wasn’t hard to imagine the motivation for falling foul of the complex system of blocks, filters and human censorship known collectively as the Great Firewall.

“When we are overseeing government, there is nowhere we won’t go; it doesn’t matter who you are [as an official]; if you are corrupt, we will expose you,” he said.
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