China Uncensored: What Have Chinese Hackers Got Against Dance?
The Chinese Communist Party has a long history of attacking the traditional arts of China. The arts have this pesky ability to make people think, particularly in ways that might not be in line with communist ideology. That’s why the Party waged specific campaigns, like the Cultural Revolution, to eradicate traditional Chinese culture, burning books, smashing relics, and banning the teaching of traditional arts.
The Party generally aims to destroy people’s faith in a traditional culture that has lasted thousands of years and produced one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever seen; they destroyed countless treasures and thousands of years of knowledge that may never be recovered.
Despite what you may see from movies and shows coming out of mainland China today, this has never stopped. On Jan. 5 and 7, right before its 2015 premiere in New York, the official website of Shen Yun Performing Arts, a respected global classical Chinese performing arts company, came under a large-scale cyberattack. According to Shen Yun’s press release, “Data shows the attack originated in mainland China, where massive computer resources were hijacked and mobilized in an attempt to overwhelm the Shen Yun website.”
Although it’s very hard to say for sure who exactly is behind this kind of cyberassault, it does follow the pattern of previous attacks that have been linked back to the Chinese military.
So why would Chinese authorities target a dance group? According to its website, Shen Yun’s mission is to revive that authentic traditional Chinese culture that the Communist Party has tried so hard to eradicate. And according to the same press release, some of the dances depict the Communist Party’s persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice inside China, and many of the performers themselves are Falun Gong practitioners.
In 1999, former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin launched a campaign to imprison and torture people who practiced Falun Gong. One thing this cyberattack makes clear is that, despite Chinese leader Xi Jinping having purged members of the Jiang Zemin faction that began the persecution, it’s still going strong.
But the hacking of Shen Yun is actually part of a serious problem that affects everyone. According to China cyberintelligence expert James Mulvenon, in July 1999, the exact month when the Communist Party began targeting Falun Gong on a large scale, two Canadian Falun Gong websites were attacked by Chinese hackers. An American one was hit shortly after. The address of the hackers was traced back to the location of the Ministry of Public Security. Mulvenon said this was likely the first public case of direct Chinese state-sponsored hacking.
Years later, a defector from the 610 Office, the Gestapo-like agency charged with eradicating Falun Gong, confirmed this in an interview with China researcher Ethan Gutmann.
These Chinese hackers—that a congressional advisory board called “the single greatest risk to the security of American technologies;” that have hit the New York Times, U.S. government and defense systems; and have stolen the intellectual property of corporations around the world—may have gotten their start by attacking Falun Gong websites outside China.
It turns out, however, that many Falun Gong practitioners are actually pretty skilled with computers themselves. They created software called FreeGate that people throughout China use to break through the Internet blockade imposed on Chinese people. It has also been adopted by Internet users in other repressive regimes around the world like Egypt, Burma, and to particularly good effect during the massive protests in Iran in 2009.
Of course, there are plenty of times when the Chinese Internet censors are not as skilled. In January last year, instead of blocking the website where you can download FreeGate, they accidently rerouted the entire Chinese Internet there.
Clearly, the Chinese government doesn’t want us to see Shen Yun. So I know I bought my ticket. How about you?
For more China Uncensored, please visit youtube.com/NTDChinaUncensored
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.