Complaints, Nationalism, and Spoofs

Chinese Netizens Respond to the Cyberattack Charges

This week, United States government and American media charges of Chinese cyberattacks have led to a variety of responses from netizens across China. On February 19, a CNN camera crew tried to shoot video of the twelve-story military-owned building that the U.S. Internet security firm Mandiant identified as the headquarters of a hacking ring led from Shanghai by the People’s Liberation Army. When the CNN crew tried to shoot footage of the building from a van, security officers on foot chased them down the streets of Shanghai.

Luqiu Luwei, a reporter for Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, posted on her Sina Weibo that her station's reporters were stopped when they tried to gain access to a military building in Shanghai.

CNN turned their thwarted reporting trip into a news item and, although the broadcast was blacked out in China, the video of the chase and an account by a CNN correspondent were posted on Weibo. A repost of the video by @新浪军事 on Sina Weibo had been retweeted 10,488 times and had accrued 5,292 comments as this story went to press. Some Chinese netizens just made light of it. One called @刘颖哥哥 wrote, “What a great promotional video for China!” Another, @风轩然, admired the athleticism of the men in uniform who gave chase, writing, “How fast are our soldiers! You are the Fastest Men in Asia! I finally understand why Liu Xiang [the Chinese Olympic hurdler] screwed up at the Olympics—he wasn’t wearing soldiers’ shoes!! How could Nike or Adidas help him?”

But others took it more seriously. Netizen @最后的暴政 believed the efforts of the uniformed staff guarding the building were futile. “What secret are you trying to keep?? You’re this scared of someone shooting a video from the street? Can you stop espionage? American satellite photos can show the freckles on your face!” Netizen @ooze2010 offered more detailed advice: “[the government] should learn from the White House: lining up a cordon and bypassing vehicles…If photo taking is not allowed, [the government] should put up a notice clarifying in both Chinese and English that expulsion is the penalty for disobeying. By the way, the driver is traitor!”

What is more interesting is that Luqiu Luwei, a reporter for Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, posted on her Sina Weibo that her TV crew was also stopped when they tried to get access to the building on the same day.

Luqiu’s Weibo post triggered a frenzy of attacks. The popular nationalistic Sina Weibo user @染香noted that:

In 2007, Luqiu spoke highly of the “professional spirit” of American policemen when one stopped a reporter colleague who had crossed a police cordon. As Luqiu put it, “Obey the rules set by the host; no photographs means no photographs!” But in Shanghai, Luqiu accused the Chinese Security of thwarting the media’s interviews and blatantly flouted the rules herself!

This post was retweeted 692 times within three hours. Netizen @云梦泽人 framed his anger in a more aggressive way “… she [Luqiu] doesn’t understand nation, nationality, or the national interest. This kind of idiot will be disdained by people.” Weibo user @汴人郭威 was even more serious: “The guard was wrong. Whoever tries to intrude into a military forbidden zone should be shot dead on the scene!” User @向命运投降后被当场击毙was one of Luqiu’s few sympathizers. He wrote, “Obviously, Luqiu is a thorn in the side of the 50 Cent Party!” referring to the nickname given to the thousands of netizens employed by the government to help scrub the Internet clean and uphold Beijing’s message of the moment. On February 20, China’s Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied American charges that China’s military was behind cyberattacks.