May 27, 2008
POSTED June 11, 2008
The Web site of a leading Beijing-based Tibetan commentator with the single name Woeser was hacked and her Skype identity stolen, according to Robbie Barnett, who runs Columbia University’s Tibetan Studies program.
Barnett circulated a statement from Woeser saying that hackers were using her Skype identity to send messages to people on her list of contacts.
Woeser’s husband, Wang Lixiong, told Reuters that the hackers were apparently trying to collect politically sensitive information that could be used against Woeser or her sources, many of whom are based in Tibetan areas where communication with the outside world is heavily monitored by the Chinese authorities.
Woeser’s U.S.-hosted Web site is one of few sources of news from Tibet. A few hours after the Skype attack, the Web site was replaced with an image of the Chinese flag and nationalistic messages. Woeser’s picture, taken from a file on her computer, was also posted on the site with an invitation to attack her, Reuters said. A group of Chinese hackers claimed responsibility, according to Reuters.
Woeser’s site was hacked once before in April, while earlier Chinese-based versions of the blog were repeatedly shut down, according to The Washington Post. Police have warned Woeser not to write about Tibet, the Post said.
When pro-independence Tibetan demonstrators clashed with security forces and Han Chinese in March, foreign journalists were expelled from Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, and turned back from affected Tibetan areas of western Chinese provinces.
Chinese media is prohibited from freely reporting on Tibet. A prominent Chinese editor, Zhang Ping, was removed from his post as deputy editor of the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Zhoukan (Southern Metropolis Weekly)after an outspoken editorial on the topic drew online criticism in April, according to the Hong Kong-based China Media Project. He still writes for sister paper Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis Daily).
Authorities have gone after other sites that have attempted to report from regions of ethnic turmoil. Uighur Online, a Web site and forum serving China’s predominantly Muslim Uighur minority, was shut down on May 15 despite being officially licensed, according to the Global Voices Online Web site. The northwestern Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region was the site of unrest in March, according to international news reports.