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Persecuted Tibetan online writer target of cyber-attacks

(PEN/IFEX) - The following is a PEN American Center press release:

PEN Protests Cyber-Attacks Against Tibetan Writer
Urges Action Against Saboteurs

New York, New York, May 28, 2008 - PEN American Center today expressed "profound concern" that Beijing-based Tibetan writer Woeser is apparently the target of serious cyber-attacks aimed at disrupting her personal communications and suppressing her voice, and in a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao, urged the government to launch a complete investigation aimed at apprehending the hackers and protecting the rights of Woeser and all of China's citizens to communicate freely and without fear or interference.

According to PEN's sources, at 4:00 pm on May 27, 2008, a malicious email was sent to contacts in Woeser's Gmail account address book purporting to include information about a "Tibetan Uprising" and containing a virus attachment. Later that evening, she discovered that her Skype account and Gmail address were both apparently accessed and her Skype ID hijacked. Sources close to Woeser have reported that the perpetrators are impersonating her and contacting Tibetans in her contact lists.

At around 3:00 am on May 28, Woeser discovered that she could no longer access her widely-read Chinese-language blog, located at http://woeser.middle-way.net , and that the content had been seriously altered. A visit to the web site now reveals a waving Chinese flag, with a message urging violence against her. The Chinese Hongke Alliance, a well-known network of nationalistic Chinese hackers, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

This is not the first time Woeser has been targeted because of her writing. In mainland China, her books are banned, three of her blogs have been shut down, she is unemployed and her movements are sometimes restricted. She has been under house arrest in Beijing since March 10, 2008, when unrest began in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Woeser has become widely known as one of China's most respected writers on Tibet, and has used the Internet to provide reports on the situation in Tibet and of Tibetans throughout China.

"These malicious and intimidating acts are the latest in what appears to be a wave of Internet sabotage aimed at silencing, intimidating, or incapacitating dissidents and activists," said Larry Siems, Director of the Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. "We remind the Chinese government that upholding the free expression rights of its citizens as guaranteed under international and Chinese law includes protecting their right to communicate online freely and without interruption or fear, and we urge Chinese authorities to investigate these cyber-attacks and to guarantee Woeser's full and unimpeded access to the Internet."

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world's oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on PEN's work to free all writers currently imprisoned in China, please visit http://www.pen.org/china2008

Updates alerts on past interference with Woeser's online writings: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/80389

For further information on past harassment of Woeser, see:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/91475
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/91457

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