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China hunts TV hacking culprits

Du Bai Chuan
Du Bai Chuan, deputy chief engineer of China's State Administration of radio, film and television, sits in front of huge screen during a video playback of the Falun Gong broadcast  

Staff and wires

BEIJING, China -- Overseas factions of an outlawed spiritual movement have been accused of interrupting a television broadcast in China to air Falun Gong propaganda.

The government has attributed the video hacking of a broadcast aimed at rural areas of China last month to the Falun Gong and has vowed to punish the group.

The hijacking of state-run satellite signals during the soccer World Cup finals represents one of the group's most brazen protests to date.

Top broadcast officials charged that the June 23 incident took place on the Chinese-run Sinosat satellite -- on a channel the government uses to beam TV programs to remote areas of China that have little access to outside news.

"This was a serious attack on satellite broadcasting -- and on international regulations. This despicable act should be condemned by the entire international community," said Liu Lihua, director general of the radio broadcast department in China's Ministry of Information Industry, according to The Associated Press.

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Liu, China's chief broadcast regulator, blamed overseas activists with the banned spiritual movement for the incursion, which he called "a threat to all satellite transmissions."

"This is extremely despicable and represents yet another crime committed by Falun Gong," Liu was quoted as saying by Reuters news news agency.

The latest breach of security comes as Beijing is intensifying its strike-hard campaign against crime and subversion in the run-up to the 16th Communist Party Congress. (Full story)

The Information ministry said the Falun Gong had acted under the guidance of U.S.-based leader Li Hongzhi.

"We solemnly warn the Falun Gong cult to immediately stop its lawless disruption of normal communications," the ministry said in a statement.

'Brutal' crackdown

Lui said the signal was still being traced and offered no hard evidence that Falun Gong was behind it. A spokesman for the group said he was unaware of the broadcast.

"We have no knowledge of such a broadcast. We know that all prior broadcasts have been grass-roots efforts from practitioners inside China," Falun Gong spokesman Levi Browde said in New York.

"These broadcasts are just one of the ways they're trying to break the information blockade -- to get the word out about the persecution that's really happening in China," Browde told AP. "They have no voice in the state-run media."

The Chinese leadership has arrested and imprisoned hundreds of Falun Gong members during a continuing crackdown that followers say has been extreme in its brutality.

In the past year, Falun Gong supporters have interrupted cable broadcasts in at least six cities during the past year, often simply showing banners that say "Falun Dafa is good."

Falun Dafa is another name for the spiritual movement, which China has denounced as an "evil cult."

People arrested in some of the hacking incidents have been sentenced to up to 16 years in prison.


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