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The Purge Goes Cyber
China Rounds Up 15,000 in Push Against Cyber Crime

As part of its general crackdown on corruption, religious minorities, and anybody who poses a political threat to President Xi, China has been going after cyber criminals. Beijing’s latest announcement on that front is a biggie; authorities have reportedly rounded up north of 15,000 alleged cyber criminals recently, The FT reports:

“For the next step, the public security organs will continue to increase their investigation and crackdown on cyber crimes,” the ministry said on its website, adding that the arrests had resulted from investigations into 7,400 cases.

Last month, according to the statement, China launched a campaign code-named “Cleaning the Internet”, aimed at destroying online “criminal gangs”.

China has a general problem with domestic cyber hacking and identity theft, which are rampant on the internet, and mainly perpetrated by gangs based elsewhere in Asia.

Chinese cybercriminals aren’t just people who sneak past Beijing’s “Great Firewall” and access the broader internet in order to find pornography or trade on black markets. They also include bloggers and citizen journalists whose work can be a real thorn in the side of an authoritarian state (as Vladimir Putin learned from opposition figure and corruption blogger Alexi Navalny). The FT goes on:

However, it is also clear that in the government’s definition, “cyber crime” in China also includes blogging and the use of social media to spread alternative points of view. Since August 2013 authorities have launched campaigns against “rumour mongering” on the internet. […]

Blogging in China is frequently a cat-and-mouse game between users and government spies, who keep a close eye on posts with any political content and swiftly block the use of any keywords that hint at dissent.

With the Chinese economy’s recent turmoil, Xi’s plan to “batten down the hatches” against the coming storm by intensifying social and political control of citizens’ lives is more urgent than ever.

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