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Leaked cables reveal China officials oversaw Google hack

Chinese officials allegedly orchestrated the hacking [JURIST report] of Google [corporate website; JURIST news archive], which caused the Internet company to briefly pull out of China earlier this year, according to a Saturday New York Times report [text] citing a series of documents released last week by Wikileaks [website; JURIST news archive]. Many cables display China's obsession with the threat of the Internet, the government's attempts at censorship [JURIST news archive] and the opportunities hacking provided to obtain secrets of its rivals, namely the US. A cable from earlier this year revealed that China's senior propaganda official Li Changchun [BBC profile] directed an attack on Google servers in the US. According to a source with close elite connections, Li and China's top security official Zhou Yongkang [BBC profile] personally oversaw the hacking of google.cn [search website]. A secret cable from the US State Department [official website] warned employees of hacking attempts by China during the 2009 climate change talks [JURIST report]. The cables also reveal that individuals linked to the People's Liberation Army [GlobalSecurity background] conducted a hacking scheme in 2008 that produced more than 50 megabytes of e-mail messages, user names and passwords from an unidentified US government agency. Other cables reveal China's concerns regarding Google Earth [mapping website] satellite mapping and the lack of censorship by Google's search engine.

WikiLeaks is a website which purports to be a not-for-profit media organization that anonymously publishes leaked classified government documents. It has recently come under controversy due to a string of leaked documents. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Defense (DOD) [official websites] said last week they were conducting criminal investigations [JURIST report] into WikiLeaks over its release of confidential government communications. Last month, Google urged the international community to ensure the free flow of online information [white paper text; JURIST report] by establishing new rules to protect against limitations on the Internet. In September, the State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China [official website, in Chinese] released a position paper [JURIST report] claiming that it has heightened Internet freedoms and describing how the Internet has become a tool for the Chinese government to promote transparency and consult the public before developing certain policies. While the government said freedom of speech is protected on the Internet, it also attached value to the Internet's role in supervision. In July, a Chinese government official said that Google had agreed to follow Chinese censorship laws [JURIST report] to gain a license renewal that would still prevent users from accessing sites that threatened national security, while not requiring Google to censor its China or Hong Kong based websites. This agreement was reached [JURIST report] in June after a dispute concerning Google's practice of redirecting mainland users to the Hong Kong-based website as a means of working around censorship laws. China responded by reiterating its commitment to open Internet [JURIST report], but stressing that international Internet companies must follow Chinese law. In February, the government announced new regulations [JURIST report] further restricting Internet use by requiring Chinese citizens to submit identity cards and meet with regulars before registering a website, prompting many to register sites overseas to avoid regulation.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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