Dissidents and Critics in China Are Being Impersonated Online, With Dangerous Consequences

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China has no shame in stealing industrial and intellectual secrets. What you may not know is that China impersonates internal dissidents, and even critics from abroad to delegitimize and ruin their reputations.

State-sponsored activities can be both inconvenient and dangerous. Andrew Phelan, a noted China observer, can confirm that swatting is a very common tactic. As he was preparing to welcome his elderly mother, police barged into his house and told him he was under arrest.

Phelan sent an email to a Chinese-Australian journalist threatening her with rape and death. Police confirmed that his email had his correct address, so they raided the home and seized laptops, phones, and an external hard disk. The police admitted their mistake only after they went through his files.

Phelan is worried. “What if someone says, ‘Did this person actually send that e-mail?’?” he asks.

New Lines Magazine:

This is the whole point. Phelan belongs to a growing group of people who have their names and identities hijacked for evil purposes. The group is made up of activists, journalists, and academics from around the world. They all have one thing in common: they criticize China.

A prominent Australian artist has opened an anticommunist exhibition in Berlin. The gallery held the exhibition despite intense pressure from Beijing.

The artist discovered a series of Twitter accounts under his name after the exhibition closed. Badiucao believes that the Chinese have several goals in mind when they set up these fake Twitter accounts.

Badiucao is convinced that the fake account campaign has several goals: to prevent people from following the real Badiucao, and seeing what he actually says; to have fake Badiucaos discredit him, to use phishing to trick his fans into divulging private information, and risk their own safety, and to directly impact his income by sending people to a false online store of his works, or, “even worse,” to “scam money” in these fake stores, and further damage his reputation.

Impersonations have become more frequent and dangerous.

There are many types of attacks, including threatening letters, cyberattacks, bricks through windows, and mysterious break-ins. People have been transported from China to Beijing in extreme cases, including the Swedish national Gui Minhai and Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai who were in Thailand at the time of his disappearance in 2015. He is still in Chinese custody today.

It is only in recent years that other nationalities are being targeted. The use of fake identities is also a relatively new phenomenon. It’s only been a few weeks or months since it has reached an alarming level.

“In the nearly quarter-century that I have been a China correspondent I’ve learned to understand how the Chinese work if they are trying to get someone to stop talking. But I’m also shocked. Western journalists are not usually treated with such severity,” Marije Vlaskamp wrote in April of this year after an anonymous bomb threat made using her phone number was sent to her. The Chinese Embassy in The Hague and the official residence of the Dutch Prime Minister in The Hague were cordoned off.

China increases the pressure, knowing that no one will stop it or speak out. They know that their enemies are well-versed in this type of psychological warfare and they realize how effective it is at neutralizing the message.

We have again seen that the Chinese play to win, while the West, and especially the United States, plays by rules invented by Europeans 200 years ago.

Guess who will win the final battle if we don’t find a way of fighting back.