Last week, the Washington Post ran a front page story on the MPI film State of Control. The article says that while filming the documentary in Tibet–and even back home in the U.S.–the filmmakers have been under Chinese surveillance. Their computers have been hacked, spied-on, and even cleaned out.
Despite the Chinese government denying its involvement, State of Control filmmakers Christian Johnston and Darren Mann believe the evidence is too strong to indicate otherwise.
The Washington Post notes:
Once the filmmakers got to the Tibetan region, their laptop was hacked, its operating system wiped out and a related Web site in Los Angeles deluged with so much traffic that it crashed.
The cyberattacks on the team led by filmmakers Christian Johnston and Darren Mann started nearly five years ago and continued for so long that they delayed completion of the documentary about Tibet, “State of Control.”
The filmmakers are convinced that the Chinese government is behind the attacks, but the evidence is circumstantial. The Chinese government has a history of hacking into the computers of human rights activists. Some of the intrusions have been traced to computers in China. And Beijing routinely tries to quash dissent in Tibet and keep the grievances of the region’s ethnic minority from reaching the outside world.
As attention focuses on Chinese theft of business secrets, experts warn that another area deserving scrutiny is the Chinese authorities’ use of cyber-tactics to suppress free speech. Chinese cyberspies have been accused of hacking into the computers of Tibetan activists and human rights groups, as well as major U.S. financial institutions, law firms and news organizations, including The Washington Post.
“The Chinese military is involved in hacking for intimidation, absolutely,” said Greg Walton, an independent cybersecurity researcher in India who has documented surveillance of dissidents’ networks by the Chinese. “There’s an accepted body of evidence to show that the People’s Liberation Army are engaged in this activity.”
The experience of the U.S. filmmakers and their crew does not constitute the kind of large-scale cyberattack that prompts headlines or congressional hearings. But it does illustrate the persistence of cyber-harassment.
Johnston, 39, said he was troubled by the disruption of the film. “The disturbing part,” he said in an interview, “is watching China’s impunity to monitor and be intrusive, not only with our own little film project, but with human rights activists in America all the way up to major Western media.”