China Allegedly Conducting Cyber Attacks Against Telegram Messaging App to Suppress Hong Kong Protests

Protesters hold placards as they stage protest an extradition law in Hong Kong on June 9, 2019
Photo: AP

The Chinese government is allegedly conducting cyber attacks against the messaging app Telegram in an effort to frustrate this week’s protests in Hong Kong, according to the CEO of Telegram.

Telegram’s Pavel Durov claims that the botnets orchestrating the DDoS attacks that his company has been experiencing this week have, “IP addresses coming mostly from China.”

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“Historically, all state actor-sized DDoS (200-400 Gb/s of junk) we experienced coincided in time with protests in Hong Kong (coordinated on @telegram). This case was not an exception,” Durov tweeted on Wednesday.

An estimated 1 million of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million residents took to the streets on June 9 to protest a new extradition law that would make it easier for China to arrest people in Hong Kong. But those protests have dwindled to the tens of thousands in recent days.

Britain formally controlled Hong Kong as a colonial power until it was handed over to China in 1997, but the city has enjoyed relative autonomy from mainland China’s authoritarian police state. Until this past decade, that is.

The new extradition bill in Hong Kong would allow China, which currently has anywhere from 1 million to 3 million Muslims in concentration camps, to extradite alleged criminals to face torture and imprisonment, removing safeguards that have been in place to protect civil rights for residents of Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, an ally of Beijing who took power in March of 2017 under fairly undemocratic circumstances, has accused the protestors of committing “dangerous and even life-threatening acts.”

“These acts of rioting, which damage social peace and disregard the law, are intolerable in any civilized society,” Lam said in a televised interview on Wednesday.

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International human rights groups have condemned the police crackdown in Hong Kong, noting that the protests have been peaceful until the police started using aggressive tactics to oppress people.

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“Hong Kong authorities shouldn’t use unlawful force to suppress peaceful protests,” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “The authorities should recognize Hong Kong’s legal obligations to allow people to make their views known through peaceful protests.”

President Donald Trump, who has previously marveled at the Chinese government’s ability to suppress democratic movements, took an uncharacteristically subdued approach to the protests in Hong Kong this week and failed to support the protesters.

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“I hope it all works out for China and for Hong Kong,” Trump simply said yesterday without taking a side.

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About the author

Matt Novak

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog