16 Jan China trolls vendetta against journo exposing opression
Ellen Whinnett – The Daily Telegraph – Saturday 16 Jan 2021
Exclusive: Chinese government proxies are believed to be behind a disgusting cyber attack launched against Canberra journalist and researcher Vicky Xu.
The keyboard cowards put together a series of videos making defamatory and highly-personal claims about Ms Xu’s personal life, posted it on YouTube, then created websites and used bots to spread the videos across social media.
Ms Xu, an Australian permanent resident, was targeted after she published work highlighting China’s oppression of the Uyghur people in the province in Xinjiang.
Politicians and officials in Canberra are aware of the attempt to intimidate Ms Xu, and believe it is an attempt by officials linked back to the Chinese Communist Party to divert attention away from China’s continued oppression of its Uyghur population.
Ms Xu, who has worked for the New York Times and most recently the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, declined to comment publicly.
But she took to Twitter in late December when the video appeared to attack China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS).
“Me: trying to take twitter breaks to write ma book. State actor: how about we slut shame you. Me: but I want to talk about my many bfs (boyfriends) in my book just wait and don’t waste tax-payer yuans?’’ she wrote, posting a defiant photograph of herself with a shaved head and smoking a cigarette.
“MSS folks, here’s a new portrait that you can use in your next ep of investigation into yours truly,’’ she wrote.
She also announced this week that publisher Allen & Unwin would release her memoir next year, which will again attack China’s efforts to control information and silence critics.
The Australian co-chairs of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, Liberal Senator James Paterson and Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching, condemned the cyber hit and the tech companies that facilitated it.
“It is appalling that Vicky has been singled out for this attempted intimidation because her research has embarrassed the Chinese Communist Party by revealing the true nature of their behaviour in Xinjiang,’’ Senator Paterson said.
“It is also profoundly disturbing that Western social media networks including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have been vectors to host and spread what appears to be state-sponsored disinformation.’’
Senator Kitching described Ms Xu as a “first-class journalist and researcher.’’
“Her voice has been central to the public’s understanding of CCP assertiveness and human rights abuses at home and abroad,’’ she said.
“Her work helped reveal the atrocities being perpetrated on Uyghurs in China’s western Xinjiang Province. As not only an outspoken critic of the CCP, but also a dissident of that regime, she has bravely sacrificed much for us to be informed.’’
Robert Potter, co-chief executive of cyber security firm Internet 2.0, said the videos had been promoted by bots, viewing numbers were falsely inflated, and those behind it had “astro-turfed’’ the videos, using bots to generate fake comments.
Mr Potter said it appeared to be part of a wider campaign to attack those who criticised China’s actions in Xinjiang.
He said the only “high-confidence indicators’’ pointed back to the security services in China.
Mr Potter said critics such as Ms Xu had been targeted by multiple forms of intimidation, and “this was just one of them.’’
“It is common for people who are as outspoken as her,’’ he said.
“She’s been incredibly brave.’’
He said Twitter had moved quickly to block the videos but “YouTube has been far slower and less receptive to protecting Vicky’s privacy than other social media channels.’’
YouTube, owned by Google, blocked the videos in Australia after News Corp raised questions about them, but they were still available in other jurisdictions.
Facebook removed the videos on Thursday night.
A YouTube spokeswoman said: “YouTube has clear policies that outline what content is not acceptable to post and we quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged to us.’’
The Chinese Embassy in Canberra did not respond to questions.