China's worried enough about the information going out on the U.S.-based Chinese language site Boxun.com that it apparently took the trouble to knock the site offline, so now we're going to add Boxun to our list of sites worth reading about the Bo Xilai scandal. Thanks for the confirmation, China! Boxun, which has reported extensively on the Bo scandal, went dark for a few hours on Friday in a denial of service attack, which it says came from China's security services. The site now live on a new server.
The flurry of rumor and speculation from which reporters have to decipher news in the absence of official communication can be baffling, one China correspondent told The Atlantic Wire via telephone last week. There's a lot of information out there, much of it wrong, and almost none of it ever confirmed by Chinese officials. Reporters have to to go on what they can learn by people inside the power structure, and those sources can be cagey. Remember when people weren't totally clear about whether there was a coup in China, or when Reuters mentioned a fax it had sent to police to try to confirm something? A fax!
Now, we can't confirm for sure that the Chinese government knocked Boxun offline, but that's what Boxun says, and as The Associated Press points out, "foreign governments and companies often complain of cyber-attacks from China, although proving their origins and who the culprits are is rarely possible. Beijing denies that it uses hackers to attack web sites or steal secrets online."
Beijing also rarely denies or confirms rumors, but it does take action against them by censoring key words on sites like Weibo, China's Twitter equivalent, as it did following a mysterious Beijing car crash in March. When rumors hit the Web that an official in Chongqing had confessed to providing cyanide to Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, "they were not immediately censored, leading analysts to believe they were officially sanctioned leaks," The Australian's Michael Sheridan reported.
So far Boxun, which once took funding from the U.S. government-backed National Endowment for Democracy (but doesn't anymore), has a decent but not stellar track record with its reporting, The AP notes: "Not all of Boxun's reports have held water, but many of those alleging Gu's involvement in the Heywood death and Bo's falling-out with [former Chonqing police chief] Wang [Lijun] have since been proven true or been corroborated by other sources."
Today Boxun is reporting what it says is an inside account of a Communist Party crackdown on Bo Xilai's allies, and another "exclusive" about how Wang feared for his life when he fled to the U.S. consulate in February, kicking off the scandal. Now that the site's been targeted, it looks like China's doing what it can to prevent the release of information that it doesn't want out. And that makes us want to read it all the more.