[Editor’s note: In August 2001, Xinhua.net, a branch of the official Xinhua News Agency, invited two representatives from the Red Hacker Alliance to be online guests and answer questions from online viewers. The Red Hacker Alliance was the largest and earliest hacking outfit in China. According to an April 26, 2005, news report, it has recently regrouped after a short break. With some 20,000 hackers, the alliance was once the fifth largest in the world. Its website, set up at the end of 2000, had nearly 80,000 registered members at its peak. Because the Alliance has recently regrouped, it is timely to review information about it.
The following excerpt is a translation from the online section of the original Xinhua.net publication of August 30, 2001. "Diyang" and "Sharpwinner" are the nicknames of the two guests from the Red Hacker’s Alliance.]
Xinhua Host: Let me first tell my audience what the Red Hacker’s Alliance is all about. The Red Hacker’s Alliance is also known as the Alliance of Red Hacker’s Mission Development and Advancement. It comprises many fans of hacker technology, including the famous Red Hacker Association. The name Red Hacker’s Alliance was adopted after they obtained strong support from several North American Chinese organizations. Their website is www.redhacker.org.
Diyang (guest #1): The terms "red hacker" and "black hacker" are very close in concept. The name of "red hacker" has been used in China for some time to reflect our research orientation and Chinese characteristics. Our website is redhacker.org. We are an organization that upholds justice and represents patriotism. The word "hacker" in its (foreign) origin has a neutral meaning and does not represent purposely sabotaging.
Viewer: As your goal is to hack and take down enemy systems, are your actions legal?
Diyang: When our national interest is threatened and the interests of our people may be harmed, we hack into the websites of our enemies and replace their front pages with our own messages. Our purpose is to express our young people’s voice for justice. Such minor attacks are unlikely to cause any financial loss to the organizations under attack.
The Successes of Red Hacker’s Attacks
Xinhua Host: Now let’s have Sharpwinner explain how the Red Hacker’s Alliance recently attacked Japanese websites.
Sharpwinner (guest #2): At 2 p.m., on the 13th of this month, when we learned from sina.com that the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was about to pay a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, we called in some of our members for an urgent meeting to discuss how to deal with his upcoming visit. The meeting ended at 3 p.m., and we decided to attack the Japanese government websites to protest the Japanese government. At 4 p.m., we successfully replaced the web pages on the official website of Japan’s Ministry of Meteorology. Subsequently we attacked dozens of Japanese official websites including that of Japan’s Fire Ministry.
Viewer: As we all know, sophisticated techniques come from constant practice. Honestly, what did you target in order to improve your process?
Sharpwinner: When we first tried the hacker technologies, we often targeted some reactionary and anti-China websites. During the attacks, their webmasters often caught us. As a result, it took lot of effort going back and forth. It was through such a tough environment that we built up our hacker’s skills.
Nationalism or Internet Crime?
Viewer: It is said that American hackers are Internet liberals while Chinese red hackers are the incarnate of Internet terrorists and of Internet censorship. How do you look at this?
Sharpwinner: Why do you think Chinese red hackers are the incarnate of Internet terrorists? Regarding our Chinese red hackers’ seven defending-motherland Internet wars, weren’t all of them for the sake of our national interest and honor? If anyone is in doubt, please read our new book, The Seven Counterattack Battles by the Chinese Red Hackers.
Viewer: Should a war take place, would your technologies be useful?
Diyang: We are living in the information age. Besides military development, the Internet is surely the key focus of the future for many countries. China certainly has a tremendous demand for such talent. Nevertheless, if one day our actions bring trouble to foreign relations of our country, we will change the way we do things.
Viewer: Out of your attacks, which one are you the most proud of?
Diyang: We have never overly shown off our attacks. However, as one of the members of the Chinese red hackers, I was thrilled by the recent "May Day Defense War" [Editor’s note: Referring to the sixth attack on an American website in 2001; see article "The Passionate Time"]. During that time, Chinese Internet users gave us great understanding and support, the Chinese media paid a lot of attention to us, and our government demonstrated its immense tolerance.
The Controversy over Red Hacker
At the time of the online interview on Xinhua.net, a simultaneous debate was ongoing in the online chatrooms between online users and the red hackers and their supporters. From the sampled chatroom comments, one can get a glimpse of how the online society looks at the acts of the red hacker.
Viewer: It sounds funny to me. There is the word "hacker" in English, but you guys added the prefix "RED." It’s as if adding the word "RED" made you guys an organization that upholds justice. Why?
Red Hacker: Red hackers are the role model for China’s youth in this new age. They are idealistic, enthusiastic, disciplined, and moral.
Viewer: How does the Red Hacker’s Alliance differ from Yi He Tuan (the Boxer Rebellion) Movement in the Qing Dynasty?
Red Hacker: The Boxer Rebellion and the red hackers are both patriotic groups. The difference is that we are in a different historic time, and our historic missions are different.
Viewer: I think Yi He Yuan (the Boxers) were for people, hackers are for themselves. The red hackers, however, uses "nationalism" as an excuse to practice their skills of sabotaging others.
Red Hacker: We are certainly different from Yi He Tuan whose goal was to fight foreign invaders. We use the Internet to protest the unjust treatment toward us. Of course, our means of protest and the degree of protest are different from those of the Boxers.
Viewer: The actions of hackers are totally those of "venting personal anger." Hackers harm people and organizations by taking down their websites.
Red Hacker: My friend! Any war will hurt people. Do you have any better way to resolve the issues?
Viewer: In facing different voices and perspectives, you guys never hesitate to attack. Aren’t you really Internet terrorists and censors?
Red Hacker: We are fundamentally different from foreign hackers. Our goal is to protect the interests of our own country.
Red Hacker: Many friends are concerned that we might get permission from the Ministry of Public Security. We do have our own criteria, which is not to cross the line of what our government permits.
Viewer: Are your parents aware of what you’re doing? Do they support you?
Red Hacker: Anyone who is patriotic will surely support us. Besides, we’re not children. It’s not a matter of who or which organizations support us. We are the ardent youths using our own ways in this modern age to safeguard the honor and dignity of our nation.