Hackers Strike Hong Kong Democracy and Media Websites

A Hong Kong panorama. (Chensiyuan/Wikipedia)
A Hong Kong panorama. (Chensiyuan/Wikipedia)

A website offering a poll for Hong Kong residents to express their views on universal suffrage in the region, and the website of a pro-democracy media company, were both temporarily brought down by computer network attacks in the last few days.

There is as yet no definitive information about the origin of the barrages, called Distributed Denial of Service attacks—but proponents of democracy in Hong Kong have little doubt that Beijing was behind it. DDoS attacks are mounted by hackers who can use a network of computers under their control, flooding the target with an overwhelming amount of traffic.

“We got smacked,” said Jimmy Lai, the chairman of Next Media, a newspaper that supports expanded democracy in Hong Kong, on a popular Cantonese radio program on June 18. Some websites were taken offline for three hours, the program said. “All Internet services of our group, everything was hacked last night,” he said, according to Kyodo News.

Tim Yiu, Next Media’s chief operating officer, told the New York Times that the commercial company they hired to block the attack was itself overwhelmed by the scale, pulling the flagship Apple Daily website in Hong Kong offline for 12 hours. As of 12:30 p.m. EDT, the website is still beleaguered.

A similar attack was also launched against the website popvote.hk, which is hosting an online referendum on behalf of the Occupy Central movement in which the people of Hong Kong can express their views on how Hong Kong’s chief executive should be elected.

Under the current system, the chief executive is elected through indirect election. 800 electors are chosen by special constituencies that comprise only a small part of Hong Kong’s population, and those 800 then elect the chief executive once every four years. This complicated system allows Beijing to determine who the chief executive will be.

This system, and the equally complicated method for electing Hong Kong’s legislative assembly, was called into question by a decision by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress that said Hong Kong elections could be held by universal suffrage as early as 2017.

In the referendum, participants can vote for one of three proposals for a new electoral method, and they can register their views on what Hong Kong’s legislative assembly should do if “the government proposal cannot satisfy international standards allowing genuine choices by electors.”

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