The Internet address that appeared on the screen during the “attack” sequence in the video is registered to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Officials there said that a student in 2001 hosted a Falun Gong Web site on the university server linked to that address but that the site was removed soon after.
Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, declined to elaborate on the images in the video but said: “It’s no secret that Falun Gong and its subordinate institutions have been intensifying their subversive efforts against China in cyberspace. And China has every legitimate right to take action against such harmful activities to defend its national security interests.”
Erping Zhang, a spokesman for the Falun Gong Information Center in New York, said: “We have been experiencing constant hacking from China for many years. We knew it was being done, but we never knew it was to this extent with actual military resources devoted to attacking us. And to have that so openly admitted to the public on a CCTV report. It’s surprising and appalling.”
Zhang said Falun Gong has “no special activity in Alabama” not conducted elsewhere, but the group did have a second Web site that was hosted by a regional affiliate in the state. On the clip, the Web site for this group was listed as a possible target.
“The fact that they would even target a small club in Alabama gives us an idea how seriously they take the cyberwarfare,” he said.
Timing of documentary
The video aired two days after the July release of the Pentagon’s first cyber-strategy, which is focused on defense but which China has interpreted as a sign of new cyberspace aggression.
“The U.S. Department of Defense has announced that if other countries intentionally break into their computer systems, that constitutes an act of war, and they will return the favor,” the narrator says in an apparent reference to the Pentagon strategy. “The worldwide virtual network is now like a powder keg ready to go in a flash.”
Pentagon spokeswoman April Cunningham called this a mischaracterization of the U.S. military’s cyber-strategy. She said that under the administration’s international cyber-strategy, the United States “reserves the right to respond appropriately” to any threat to national interests.
State Department officials declined to comment on the clip, but its coordinator for cyber-issues, Christopher M. Painter, said, “A key part of our international strategy is to engage countries, including China, in building consensus around norms of appropriate state behavior in cyberspace.”
In the documentary, Du says that “online, there’s no front line” and urges listeners to mobilize as part of a “joint defense system of the military and the people.”
“So then,” he concludes, “we lay a good foundation for the cyberwar ahead.”
Staff researcher Liu Liu in Beijing contributed to this report.