The Hong Kong government is maintaining a sullen silence in the face of military-grade cyber-terrorism unleashed over recent weeks against pro-democracy activists and the press. There has been no official protest over violations of Hong Kong’s Internet infrastructure or invasion of privacy of its citizens.
The silence speaks volumes. Meanwhile pro-Beijing politicians and fronts are noisily distracting from real concerns over a fake democracy being foisted on Hong Kong society after Beijing held off Basic Law promises of direct elections for 20 years.
Apple Daily Computers Hacked
Media baron Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, the publisher of the hugely popular Apple Daily and Next magazine, which champion “true democracy,” had his computers hacked and phone conversations wiretapped, probably by unknown figures in China, although that can’t be proven. About 900 documents detailing his donations to democracy groups were leaked to pro-Beijing publications, with comrades baying for investigation into Lai’s contributions – which are not illegal under any law in Hong Kong.
The documents indicate US$10 million was dished out since 2012 to pan-democratic parties, the HK Civic Education Foundation, HK Democratic Development Network and Occupy Central. It was claimed that up to HK$40 million may have been distributed by Jimmy Lai to democracy activists and groups since 1997.
A pro-Beijing outfit called “Voice of Loving Hong Kong” has filed a complaint with the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) against five lawmakers who they say received donations from Lai that they did not report.
Legislative Council rules require benefits exceeding 5 percent of annual pay or one-off handouts over HK$10,000 to be officially disclosed. The “Committee on Members Interests” headed by another pro-Beijing legislator pledged a hearing to determine if an investigation was warranted.
The Apple Daily owner is known to have provided funds for the Democratic Party and Civic Party that would have been used to promote their candidates. But that is entirely legal. Disclosure of the source of funds to political parties is not required in Hong Kong – the pro-Beijing parties receive huge donations from local businesses buying favors, and from the local arms of Chinese state enterprises.
Lai is almost unique among local businessmen in openly supporting the pro-democracy camp, which raises most of its meager funds from individuals.
Massive DDoS assault
The Lai hacking follows barely a month after a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack in June to derail the servers and networks of the mock public referendum organized by the citizens’ movement Occupy Central on methods to elect the 2017 chief executive. The PopVote project was designed jointly by the Public Opinion Program of the University of Hong Kong and the Social Policy Research Centre of the HK Polytechnic University.
Matthew Prince, CEO of CloudFlare, which volunteered cyber security for PopVote, was astounded by the “stunning amount of traffic,” which reached 300 gigabits of data/sec at peak, making it the second highest DDoS attack ever recorded in internet history. The largest reached 400 gigabits/sec. Apparently about 40 percent of the assault had been re-directed to local Hong Kong systems using the “.hk” domain name, causing overall downgrading of network performance beyond the specific targets of the hacker army.
Data & Privacy not safe in HK?
These two high-profile violations unhinge the territory’s reputation for data security and right to privacy for individuals, groups and corporations. Almost overnight, all assumptions of a “safe zone” for data integrity have been shredded. The scale and brazenness of the targeted cyber-assaults have stunned the usually vigorous and hyper-alert legal community and journalists. No one knows what to make of the silence from the government of this international financial center on such fundamental rights.
The message is clear: lawmakers, editors, media companies and individuals who challenge the ongoing campaign to block citizens from nominating candidates for the 2017 chief executive election, are fair game for cyber terror. The HK administration is not in any hurry to investigate. There are no calls in the pro-Beijing dominated Legislative Council for a commission of inquiry. Is that the end of it or just the beginning?
‘Silent Majority’ mutates
A maverick outfit calling itself “Silent Majority” led by a former newspaper editor and well financed by mainland linked corporations, claimed to represent Hong Kong’s dominant sentiment which it said is entirely against the rest of the community who demand “true democracy.”
Silent Majority launched a Facebook page, website and scary videos of chaos, death and destruction if Occupy Central supporters sit down in Hong Kong’s financial district to block traffic movements. Silent Majority was featured prominently in the local communist press and others eagerly hewing to Beijing such as Ming Pao and the South China Morning Post – which would normally have laughed off the farce.
However that sham got nailed when the real silent majority of Hong Kong-ers showed up in force, braving sun and rain on the June 4th commemoration of the Tiananmen massacre, the July 1st protest at the handover anniversary and most emphatically when 800,000 of them participated in the mock referendum called by Occupy Central to vote on methods to elect the chief executive in 2017 – despite the cyber-hacking and threats.
Silent Majority felt obliged to mutate quickly to a more credible identity. It morphed into the Peace and Democracy Movement which is “Anti-Violence” and “Anti-Occupy Central.” Full-page advertisements have run in newspapers including the South China Morning Post, urging anyone to sign up to its pitch at 622 stations across the territory.
The avowed objective of this is to save Hong Kong from chaos and collect a signature count to challenge the 800,000 citizens who queued up to vote on the Occupy Central referendum. It has since claimed Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying as a signatory, along with several other government officials. The word has come down and the faithful are obliging.
Some 88 percent of the Occupy Central participants voted to reject any government proposal that denies public nomination of the CE candidates for 2017. They knew what they were voting for: to stop the erosion of civil liberties and to preserve a Hong Kong free from fear and state terror. Most of the old folk and passers-by at MTR stations and other points think they are signing to save Hong Kong from some terrible unknown horror called through loudhailers of the Peace and Democracy cadres.
In addition, the corporate organizations of the United Front – chambers of commerce and industry, retail associations and real estate developers – have taken out advertisements in local newspapers to rail against Occupy Central, calling readers to “Support Peaceful Dialogue Against Unlawful Civil Disobedience.” Mainland style mass mobilization has come to Hong Kong. The rest will follow soon.