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Chinese Hackers: Tonight, Let’s Attack CNN!

On April 19, 2008 Chinese hackers launched an intensive denial-of-service attack on CNN following CNN commentator Jack Cafferty’s April 9 comment criticizing the Chinese Communist regime. The young people carrying out the attack have never watched CNN, for CNN and many other western media outlets are censored by the goverment. The hackers relied on the State-run media’s claims that Cafferty’s comment was “an insult to China,” and became part of the Chinese regime’s campaign against the West.

“Come on, hacker brothers! Make sure to permanently paralyze CNN. You are our pride!” said a comment posted by an anonymous user in the Chinese chat room QQ on April 20, 2008. is the most popular free Instant Messaging (IM) service in China with half a billion registered accounts. Following CNN commentator Jack Cafferty’s comment criticizing the Chinese Communist regime for its handling of the recent incident in Tibetan on April 9, 2008, China’s state-run media quickly spread the message that Cafferty’s comment was “an insult to China.”

A few days later, an email was circulated in user groups, calling for widespread participation in a cyberattack CNN on April 19, 2008.

The following are translated comments from Chinese websites:

Attack US Central TV [1]

Tonight (April 19, 2008), hackers in China will attack the US Central Television Station [Note: The author thinks that CNN is the US government’s official TV station, similar to China’s CCTV.]. As a special group of people in cyberspace, we are making the following announcement:

We can still recall the exciting hacker war between China and the US years ago. What was the cause of that war? Because a big anti-Chinese campaign broke out in Indonesia, many Chinese women were raped and murdered. The older generation of Chinese hackers could not bear such humiliation. But on the other side of the ocean (US) an attack on Chinese websites took place right before our eyes. They launched a large scale attack on all websites with “.cn” at the end. At the time, Chinese Internet technology was not so advanced. But people fought back in the most primitive ways. No matter what, we expressed our feelings. Although we do not know each other, we are all children of Mother China.

We know that the 2008 Olympics will be hosted by our beloved motherland. This is a long anticipated dream shared by all Chinese. But our torch relay was repeatedly interrupted. We all know the reason. The Tibetan independence activists’ behavior lit an angry blaze in our hearts.

Let us take a brief look at the position taken by the French. France is by far the biggest protector and supporter of the Tibetan independence movement. Supporting the French means supporting the break-up of China. French President Sarkozy is the only president of a major country who is openly boycotting the Beijing Olympics. The Chinese government recently signed a billion dollar contract to buy Airbus. Yet the French immediately betrayed us.

Recently the US media, CNN, said something that we Chinese people can’t accept. How can we put up with that and pretend it did not happen?

We plan to launch an attack on If you are a Chinese, please join us.

Chinese hackers are legal entities with their own websites.[2] For instance, the Hackers Union of China claims that it is the biggest and most professional organization of hackers. Its website boasts 19.8 million visitors since its inception in 2002. Its motto is: “Safeguard the Motherlands’ Dignity; Love Our China; Strengthen Our China; Glorify Our China.”

After hacking CNN’s website, the Hackers Union announced, “the Hackers Union for China launched an assault on the famous US media last night at 8:00 p.m. We have erected a Chinese national flag on its website. is now paralyzed. The assault lasted from 8:00 p.m. yesterday till midnight. That is 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. US time. Everyone please take a look. Until 21:00 tonight, more than one million hackers launched attacks on CNN. CNN changed its server, but the new server was paralyzed again.” [3]

In a forum on the website of China’s most popular search engine, Baidu, hackers called on more people to attack CNN and developed a link to an automatic program attacking CNN, “Please send this link to everyone you know. Thank you for your participation. Let us attack CNN together. Let the world see how powerful we are!” [4]

This is the first time that Chinese hackers have launched such a large-scale attack on a foreign media company. Chinese hackers are mostly young people in their 20s. These young people have never watched CNN. Many Chinese don’t even know that CNN is a private media company. They automatically compared CNN with China’s state-controlled CCTV. They targeted CNN partly because they believe CNN belongs to the US government.

After the incidents in Tibet on March 14, 2008, China’s state-run media launched a fresh round of attacks against Tibetan “separatists” and the Dalai Lama. Western politicians that support Tibetans’ human rights and Western media reporting on the incidents in Tibet also became the targets of vilification.

A commentary article posted on the website of China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency offered a footnote to the ongoing campaign [5]. Below is an excerpt from that article:

“Why Do CNN and Others Demonize China?

“In their coverage of the Olympic Torch Relay and recent incidents in Tibet, Western news media, headed by the Big Three Media companies of the United States and Europe, have been surprisingly anti-China.

“A popular expression in China’s cyberspace these days is ‘You don’t want to behave too (much like) CNN.’ This is how Chinese people use black humor to express their anger toward certain Western mainstream media for their gross violations of the basic principles of ‘balanced, factual, objective, and accurate’ reporting. Some Chinese media people think that the twisted view and craziness of CNN and other Western media can serve as a textbook example of a news reporting scandal.

“Behind the Western media’s ‘pride and prejudice,’ we can clearly feel that a rising, strong China deeply hurts some Western people’s feelings. They cannot face reality. This comes from different ideologies and different national interests.

“Western media’s efforts to ‘downplay China’ and ‘demonize China’  will happen again in the future. We must be clear about this. We can safely predict: The media war between China and the West will intensify.”

Influenced by the Chinese media, which is intent on whipping up feelings of nationalism, Chinese Internet users also joined the campaign. The following are some typical examples of Chinese Internet users’ comments:

Attacking Nancy Pelosi
User 222.191.65:
“What kind of person is Pelosi?
US House Speaker Pelosi recently met with the Dalai in India. He also calls for the international community to pressure China on the Tibet problem in order to keep the moral high ground. By supporting the Dalai, Pelosi forgot that he is the so-called ‘human rights protector’ House Speaker. [Note: Some attackers think Pelosi is a man.] He supports the Dalai, who plotted and organized violence, riots and looting. This is solid evidence that the US uses a double standard when ‘protecting human rights.’ A US House Speaker meeting the Dalai is a violation of basic international principles. The Chinese government and the Chinese people are strongly against it.”

We Must Strengthen Our Military
User 221.227.178.*:
“History tells us: We must adopt a strong military strategy. Increase military budget. Continuously develop new weapons. We must launch our nuclear submarine as soon as possible. A weak military means we will be bullied.”

US Democracy Must Not Be Good Stuff
User 60.184.97:
“The democracy that the United States tries to sell to us must not be good stuff. Everyone has seen by now that wherever the American democracy torch goes, a war breaks out. We should research our own Chinese brand of democracy.”

Dalai Lama = Bin Laden
User 124.114.194:
“Let me ask Pelosi: If other countries’ leaders meet with Bin Laden, how do you think the US will react?”

Bush Is Worse than Hitler
User 60.20.15:
“The US government is too aggressive. It invaded an independent country, Iraq, and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. It organized a pro-US government and hung innocent President Saddam. Bush is crueler than Hitler. Where is justice and peace in the world?”

U.S.: I Dare You to Invade China!
User 218.205.237:
“Look at Taiwan, Eastern Turkistan, the Dalai—which one is not backed by the American Yankees? Their ill intention is to stop China from becoming a strong nation! It also provides evidence that they are afraid of us! Let’s take care of our own business and ignore their desperate criticism. If you are bold, I dare you to invade China like you did Iraq!”

In China, such comments are not considered radical. Quite the opposite, they are considered patriotic viewpoints shared by government officials, business people, intellectuals, and the general public who have no access to more balanced information due to China’s censorship.

Ms. Gao Yu, a former reporter for China News Service and a repeat winner of the International Women’s Foundation “Courage in Journalism Award” compared China’s current “Fenqing (angry youth)” phenomenon with Nazi Germany’s Hitler Youth. At a Hong Kong media forum on May 2, 2008, she said, “Like the rejection of the Western media and Western governments during the Cultural Revolution [1966-1976], when we (Chinese) were so poor that five people shared one pair of trousers, we still showed our arrogance (toward the West). I feel China is once again falling into a very foolish and very barbaric state of mind. It is similar to a political atmosphere associated with the Hitler Youth in 1936 before the Berlin Olympics. Why did this happen? Why does China have so many ‘angry youth?’ I think that it is because there is no freedom of the press in China.” [7]