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  Beijing Scene


Jiaodian Fangtan (Focal Point) has become one of China's most popular television programs. The ten-minute show airs every day after the evening news to an audience of 300 million people. The program focuses on exposing corruption, abuses of money and power, sales of fake products and other illegal activities. Premier Zhu Rongji is said to be its most loyal viewer. Late last year, he visited the program producers. "People all over China like it, but it is not popular with everyone - for a few people it causes a big headache. I am included among the people that you must supervise," the premier said.

Focal Point's main target is corrupt local officials. One of its programs reported illegal toll booths set up by local police officers on national highways. Another drew attention to the case of 500 primary school students who had become ill after eating poisoned food. The program is so popular that it receives about 200 letters and telephone calls a day from viewers.

Petitioners also line up at the entrance of China's Central Television station to ask the program to broadcast their grievances. But critics say in spite of its successes, the program can only go after "flies" and not "tigers" or corrupt high level officials. Corruption in top government offices is handled by the Communist Party internally, and the investigations are kept out of the public eye.

Right-Wing Hackers

An extreme right-wing Chinese group has declared cyberwar on Japanese websites in a bid to force "Japan's mad dogs" to face up to wartime atrocities committed in China.

The self-styled Chinese extreme right-wing Anti-Japanese Alliance, in a message on their website www.bsptt.gx.cn/public/badboy/hack, claims to have attacked at least 30 Japanese sites between January 24 and February 13.

Launching a new "Anti-Japanese war," the organization says it targeted a series of websites belonging to ministries, the prime minister, parliament and the state planning agency.

It also claimed cyber raids on websites belonging to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, the NHK television station, the central post office in Okinawa, a home for the elderly in Kyoto and the electronics group JVC. Japanese officials said last month a host of government websites had been plastered with anti-Japanese graffiti.

The hacker website is a sub-domain of a government telecom website in the southern province of Guangxi, and officials say police have no intention of clamping down on the site because it is "patriotic."

The website says the movement was founded by "Information technology enthusiasts imbued with a strong sense of patriotism." It calls on hackers to download "Internet Atomic Bomb China Boy" denial of service software, similar to the software used in attacks on US search engine Yahoo! and website CNN.com, and launch anti-Japanese hacking attacks.

"We welcome more anti-Japanese sites to join the attack and explode an atom bomb on the Japanese Internet," says the group. "The main principle of the alliance is to make continued cyberspace attacks on a small number of Japanese mad dogs.

"The main attack goals will be the websites of the little Japanese government and companies."

The claim of responsibility came after Japanese officials last month said hackers broke into a government Internet site and left a message blasting Tokyo's failure to take responsibility for its wartime past.

Messages in several languages were discovered at the site of the Management and Coordination Agency, which gathers official economic data. In broken English, one message read: "Japanese, as all people know, is a folk which has no courage face to the truth of history. It's the disgrace of Asia."

Several days later the hackers launched new attacks, mocking government security controls. The attacks followed a nationalist conference in the western city of Osaka which denied the 1937 Nanjing Massacre by Japanese troops in China ever took place.

The conference infuriated the Chinese government, which repeatedly admonished Tokyo for allowing the forum to take place and warned Sino-Japanese ties would be severely damaged if Japan did not face up to its wartime past.

An official at the Ministry of Information Industry, which polices the Internet in China, say the authorities had no role in the attacks.

"It is not our problem. We are only in charge of the security of the Internet in China," says the official, promising to investigate the affair.

The hacking website is a sub-domain of the official telecommunications bureau in the town of Baise in Guangxi. Chen Zhengchao, an official at the Baise Telecommunications Bureau, says local authorities will take no action against the site.

"The police in charge of the security of the Internet know all about this. The content of the site is patriotic and as long as it does not publish pornography or reactionary material, we have no reason to intervene."

Information Colonialism

The People's Liberation Army is calling for restrictions to be placed on the import of computer network security products into China. It is also claiming that, to safeguard the national economic interest, it should be given the responsibility of ensuring the security of the country's information systems.

A commentary published in the People's Liberation Army Daily newspaper - the official mouthpiece of China's military - warns against foreign domination.

Without singling out any nation in particular, the article states that "some countries" with highly developed information technology industries are "taking advantage of their monopolistic position" to "control information technologies, infiltrate information resources" and dump IT products in underdeveloped countries.

The goal of these "monopolistic" nations, the article says, is "to attain political, economic and military objectives." The author termed this "information colonialism."

Through the export of "technological capital" (IT products), the "information powers" dominate information in underdeveloped nations and thereby threaten their economic security, the commentary states.

To prevent such domination of China, "The army should take as its new function safeguarding the security of information systems."

The article goes on to say that "Information colonialism will be a major cause of future wars." To prevent this, China should build independent information networks.

It should also strengthen its own IT sector. To achieve both these goals, and at the same time protect national security, China should avoid "as best as possible" the import of network security products such as "firewalls, routers and encryption software," that article says.

State-Sponsored Websites

China's State Council recently announced it will provide government funding to support five state-owned media websites in China, the Overseas Chinese News reports.

The announcement came a day after China's State Council Information Office (SCIO) said it was in the midst of drafting regulations requiring state media organizations to separate themselves financially from affiliated websites. The same regulations will probably allow foreign funding of these websites as well, according to the report.

The State Council made the funding pledge at the Web News Regulations Working Conference. The websites of the following organizations will get financial support:
-Xinhua News Agency (www.xinhua.org)
-China Daily (www.chinadaily.com.cn)
-People's Daily (www.peopledaily.com.cn)
-State Council News Office (www.china.org.cn)
-China International Broadcast Station (www.cnradio.com)

This funding announcement was made by a spokesperson from the Department of Internet at the State Council's News Office.

According to the newspaper, the spokesperson denies rumors that the central government will come up with RMB1 billion (US$121 million) to support these news media websites.

He says that the government indeed has plans to support the building of these sites, but it has not made a final decision on the specific amount of funding, the timing of implementation or how the funds will be invested.

"These are important questions for the development of the nation's Internet industry, " the article says.

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