The activists, who include one of China’s foremost artists and a Tibetan student in the United States, came forward after Google announced it had suffered a “highly sophisticated” cyber attack in December, whose goal was to gain access to its email service, Gmail. Google has since said it is preparing to quit its Chinese business and Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of State, has demanded an explanation from China for the attempted hacking.
Ai Weiwei, who is best known in the West for having helped design the Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium in Beijing, said that two of his Google email accounts had been hacked by “unknown visitors” who read and copied his emails. Mr Ai, who is also a vociferous activist, said he had no proof that the Chinese government had been behind the hacking attempt.
Teng Biao, a law professor at the University of Political Science and Law in Beijing and a human rights lawyer, said his emails had been hacked into in 2007. “Many of my friends told me they received entrapment emails from the email address I was using at the time: firstname.lastname@example.org,” he wrote on his blog. The email subjects were things like ’inside story’, ’contribute an article’ or ’democratic principles’ and had an attachment containing a virus,” he added.
He also said that public security officers had monitored the content of his emails. “Last March, I sent a research project in my email and shortly afterwards the public security officials summoned me for a cup of tea and warned me not to do the research,” he explained. “At the end of last year, I received an email invitation to a human rights conference in Ireland. Two weeks later, our university officials came to me and said that the heads of the university had heard I planned to visit Ireland and that it was better not to go,” he said.
He added that in two other cases he had innocently asked public security officials: “How did you know that? I have not told anyone” and was told: “Who do you think we are?” Zeng Jinyan, an activist and the wife of Hu Jia, a jailed dissident, also said that her email had been hacked. Tenzin Seldon, a 20-year-old student in the US whose parents are Tibetan exiles said that Google had called her in to check her computer and confirmed it had been hacked.
However, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Affairs ministry said that “Chinese laws prohibit any form of cyber attacks including hacking.”