Thursday, 23 January 2014

Spying Chinese officials on Tibetan WeChat users revealed

DHARAMSHALA, January 23: A Tibetan woman using WeChat, the China based popular messaging application, has received a twenty second-long suspicious voice message in Mandarin which appears to have been spoken by an official entrusted with the duty to monitor messages. 

Tseten (name changed) living in India was having a conversation with the members of a group dedicated to his family members last week when he was told by his aunt that she received a voice message from him which he had not sent. However, at the time when Tseten’s family discovered the suspicious message, the whole conversation of a day was found missing from his WeChat. 

Lhadon Tethong, Director of Tibet Action Institute, a New York based group that works towards cyber security for Tibetans, said, “We have grave concerns about the potentials for widespread surveillance on the entire Tibetan community because WeChat is a Chinese messaging app and its servers are in China and the potential of surveillance is great, complete and 100 percent.”

On October 11, 2013, a Tibetan woman Kalsang from Tsala Township in Driru was arrested for allegedly expressing "anti China" sentiments in social networking app WeChat and kept "banned pictures of the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama" in her cellular phone.

WeChat is a text and voice messaging communication service developed by Tencent in 2011 and is widely used by Tibetans inside and outside Tibet. It has become the most used mode of communication through its walkie-talkie style messaging facility. However, activists and experts fear that the app’s voice-messaging service enables security officials to monitor user’s movements in real time and access other information shared via the app.

Tencent is one of China’s largest companies with a market capitalization of approximately USD 100 billion and 700 million-strong user base. The company—like many private sector actors in China—has a very close relationship with the Communist Party of China (CPC), a report by Citizen Lab. "For example, Ma Huateng, chairman and CEO of Tencent, recently became deputy of the National People’s Congress, the main legislative body of the state," a report by Citizen Lab said. 

Chinese dissident Hu Jia expressed concerns that the domestic division of China’s Public Security Bureau is actively surveilling WeChat based on suspicions that security officers were following his movements through WeChat. In addition, there were reports from his colleagues that messages transmitted through WeChat were recited back to them by authorities in full detail almost immediately after they took place.

No comments:

Post a Comment