June 06, 2012

We believe state-sponsored attackers may be attempting to compromise your account

When I opened my Google account this morning, this is the first thing I saw:

Warning: We believe state-sponsored attackers may be attempting to compromise your account or computer.


The language certainly got my attention.

A Google link took me to the information below (for further exploration on the message, which judging by Twitter was sent to many both in and outside of China, see Charles Custer's blog here. UPDATE: This item at Foreign Policy is a good explainer, click here.):

Your account could be at risk of state-sponsored attacks

About the security threat

If you were directed to this page from a warning displayed above your Gmail inbox, we believe that state-sponsored attackers may be attempting to compromise your account or computer.

It's likely that you received emails containing malicious attachments, links to malicious software downloads, or links to fake websites that are designed to steal your passwords or other personal information. For example, attackers have often been known to send PDF files, Office documents, or RAR files with malicious contents. We strongly recommend that you avoid clicking links or attachments in suspicious messages.

It's important to note that Google's internal systems are not compromised and that this message does not refer to one specific campaign. We routinely receive abuse reports from users, as well as from our internal systems that monitor for suspicious login attempts and other activity. To help defend the integrity of these systems, we aren't sharing more details about these attacks. However, after carefully studying the abuse reports, we decided to show you the message in Gmail to help warn and protect you from potential attacks.

What you can do

Most importantly, avoid clicking links and attachments in unfamiliar messages as well as suspicious looking messages that seem to be from someone you know.

We also strongly advise you to take extra steps to protect your computer and accounts:

  • Be careful about where you sign in to Google. Attackers often send links to fake sign-in pages to try to steal your password. Whenever you sign in to Google products, make sure that the webpage address shown at the top of your browser1 window starts with https://accounts.google.com/. Use a strong password for Google that you don't use on any other website, keeping in mind these tips for a safe password .
  • Always use up-to-date software including your Internet browser, operating system, plugins, and document editors. Consider switching to the Chrome browser , which has an auto-updating security feature to reduce the risk associated with running out-of-date software.
  • Enable 2-step verification  in Gmail. This feature sends a second password to your phone, giving you an extra layer of security that has been successful in protecting some accounts from these attacks.

By following these steps, you can dramatically decrease the likelihood of your account or computer becoming compromised.

The warning above your Gmail inbox will remain for a while to help remind you to take the recommended steps above. The alert will disappear after that time, but we encourage you to take action as soon as you can.

June 04, 2012

Postcard from Tiananmen Square, on June 4


Today is the anniversary of government troops opening fire on Tiananmen Square protestors on June 4, 1989, so I rode the metro over to the square this afternoon. The crowd seemed thin -- tourists having their pictures taken and security keeping an eye on everything under the hot summer sun. I thought about what the scene in the square and surrounding neighborhoods might have been like 23 years ago and then, with nothing to look at but guards and families posing for snapshots, I left.




May 07, 2012

Postcard from covering the Chen Guangcheng story

I took a few photographs last week that got lost in the mix of covering the Chen story, and wanted to pass them along ...


Security, after herding reporters away from area where Chen was being treated on Wednesday. 


An unidentified gentleman filming reporters in the designated press area across the street from Chaoyang Hospital on Friday.


Secretary Clinton at press conference at the J.W. Marriott on Friday evening.


The wing of Chaoyang Hospital where Chen was thought to be staying.


Two of three in U.S. diplomatic visit to Chaoyang Hospital on Thursday (Robert Wang, deputy chief of mission for the U.S. embassy, was standing outside the frame of this shot). They didn't get in, but American officials said that representatives were able to meet with Chen the following day.

Again, the scene on Wednesday.

April 26, 2012

China and images through a dark glass

I've learned that there's no quicker way for a reporting trip to get nipped in the bud than to be spotted taking photographs of Chinese police. So, on stories where that's a consideration I now try to get my snaps while riding from one interview to the next. Sitting in the back of a vehicle with tinted windows, the results are often ... not sharp. 

But as I was going through photos from my trip to a district of the Chongqing municipality last week, well, I sort of liked the fuzziness. Thought I'd pass them along:





March 23, 2012

Tibetans, the police and China

I travelled recently to Tongren, an ethnic Tibetan town in Qinghai Province where two men set themselves on fire last week. I wanted to pass along a few sections of my article and some images of the place:

"If they gave us more freedom there probably wouldn't be more self-immolations," said a 37-year-old businessman who lives at the outskirts of Tongren.

Speaking on Tuesday, the man said that two days earlier he'd tried to drive into town only to be turned back by police. It'd been a day since the latest self-immolation and he figured the roads would be open.

"They weren't letting Tibetans in," said the man, who like everyone else interviewed asked that his name not be used, for fear of official retaliation. "The police said, 'You can't come in now, you should come back in three or four days.'"

Confronted by police from China's dominant Han ethnic group telling him he couldn't enter a majority ethnic Tibetan town, the businessman said, he had no choice other than to grit his teeth and turn around.

"It was difficult to accept," he said.


One ethnic Tibetan who works for the county government that oversees Tongren said he was sent to the town on March 10 to help "educate" locals during a period that marks both the 2008 tumult and a 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese forces. The failed effort in 1959 forced the Dalai Lama to escape into India.

"The government is providing a lot of services to the common people here," said the 48-year-old bureaucrat. "Some common people are doing these sorts of things" — self-immolations — "but if they want to oppose the government they will not win."

Asked how he as an ethnic Tibetan felt about the situation, the man crossed his arms and said, "I'm a cadre, it's not convenient for me to talk about these things."


"It's not only in Tongren, every Tibetan area now has police," he said.

Pushed again for his personal feelings, he said, "Of course the situation is sad. It's the same everywhere. But when these things occur, the government must manage the situation."

"Tibetans from Aba and Tibetans here are the same, and the reasons for the self-immolations are the same," said one ethnic Tibetan in Tongren, a 35-year-old man who's doing a project to document traditional arts in the area.

When a McClatchy reporter first met that man in October 2010, following marches by local students against increased Mandarin language classes, he was unhappy about the government's approach to Tibetan issues. On the whole, however, he came across as open and talkative.

On Tuesday, his easy smile was gone. Speaking in a van pulled over in a farm field by a river — he'd refused to meet in Tongren itself — the man tugged at his neck and constantly looked around for police.

"There is a lot of undercover security," he said, adding in a near-whisper that, "The situation has changed."


"We don't dare speak about these things because as soon as we do, the police will take us away," said a 37-year-old monk from the Rongwo monastery in Tongren.

As he spoke those words, an ethnic Tibetan woman listening to the conversation broke into tears.


Although he was speaking in a teahouse with no obvious security presence, the monk on Wednesday said that he had to be careful.

"It's very difficult now for monks from Rongwo monastery to come outside," he said. "There are cameras watching where we go, and later on they will of course ask us where we went."

Asked whom he meant by "they," the monk would not answer. He said only that life at the monastery hasn't been comfortable lately.

"If we were not in pain, we would not be setting ourselves on fire," he said.


March 05, 2012

Postcards from Wukan, a few days late

I'd wanted to post these from the elections in Wukan, but my work on Saturday ran late, Sunday was taken up with travel back to Beijing and then yesterday I was at the National People's Congress. So, just think of these as having been delayed a bit in the mail.

Xue Jianwan, the daughter of Xue Jinbo, a Wukan activist who died in police custody in December. When I took this photo on Friday, Xue said she was going to continue her run for office in Wukan despite official pressure to drop out of the race. She appeared to back out of the race the next day, a development that's since been confirmed. 

Villager watching a video of Wukan protest leaders making speeches last year, as the village headed toward open revolt against the local government. The large group of men watching the TV at this stand on Friday seemed to quiet down a bit when Xue Jinbo flashed across the screen. Two of the other protest leaders, Lin Zuluan and Yang Semao, were elected head and deputy head of the village commission on Saturday.

Yang Semao being interviewed in front of the village commission office on Friday.

Early Saturday morning. Guards at the entrance to the local school used as a polling station.

Lin Zuluan on Saturday. I saw him sitting or walking by himself a lot during the day (Update: Though outside the frame of this particular photograph, I think someone was sitting next to him). I suspect he might have been caught between the officials present, from nearby city of Lufeng and elsewhere, and the scrum of press that gathered every time he started talking with someone.


IMG_1066Voters starting to trickle in.


Xue Jianwan is in there somewhere.

More press.







Votes being counted.


As vote count wrapped up, Lin writing notes before speaking to crowd.

Lin and Yang, not long before results announced.

Lin pushes through the press on the way home.





I saw this fishing boat starting to sink in December, when in Wukan during the protests.  I walked by it on Friday and it was completely under the water. Am not sure if this makes sense to you, dear reader, but for me it was a poignant note -- that the significance of the Wukan story is still unknown, submerged down there under the water, where it can still be partially seen but not fully understood.





(Note: Most of my shots of individual voters were vertical and I'm having trouble getting them to post -- will update with them when I figure out how.)

Postcards from the National People's Congress

Wanted to pass along some quick shots from the NPC, the annual meeting of China's rubber stamp congress. 

Ceiling in auditorium of Great Hall of the People.

Firemen on Tiananmen Square.

Radio booth.

Guard on Tiananmen Square.

National People's Congress. Great Hall of the People.

Wen Jiabao. National People's Congress. Great Hall of the People.

February 29, 2012

Whither China? A conversation.

I came across this video yesterday via a blog item at the Atlantic about Eric X. Li, a man who founded a Shanghai venture capital firm and, more notably, is a fierce proponent of the Chinese Communist Party. Most recently, Li penned an opinion piece at The New York Times titled "Why China's Political Model is Superior."

The video, a conversation he had last summer, is an interesting look at his arguments and thoughts along those lines:

February 06, 2012

China, Tibetans and that which is not known

Normally, when there are conflicting versions about something as dramatic as a series of protests or self-immolations, foreign correspondents travel to the place in question and try to figure out what really happened.

In the case of ethnic Tibetans in China's Sichuan Province, however, that has been a difficult task.

Because police checkpoints in the region are turning outside media away (sometimes after detaining them, as happened to me in Sichuan during November), it's so far not been possible to pin down the facts on the ground.

For example, when writing yesterday on reports that surfaced over the weekend about three more Tibetans reportedly lighting themselves on fire, I was left to quote an advocacy group, Radio Free Asia and then give the Chinese government's line on unrest in the region. If confirmed, the three would make it 19 self-immolations in less than a year. (UPDATE: Chinese officials, quoted in state-run media, have denied those reports. The rights group Free Tibet stands by its information -- my story is here.)

When I got to the office this morning, I saw that China Daily, a government-run newspaper, had a story on the subject of ethnic Tibetans and Sichuan. Its reporter seemed to have no trouble at all gaining access to the areas in question. The piece looked at two incidents in which Tibetans were shot by police on Jan. 23 and 24.

I thought I might pass along a few different perspectives:

I. China Daily: Riots linked to organized crime and subversion

"The police station in Seda county was attacked on Jan 24, one day after the violence broke out in Luhuo.

About 200 people, mostly in their 20s and 30s, started to gather at Jinma Square in Seda town around 2 pm, according to Palden, the county director.

Around 2:40 pm, he said, they began to attack a police box near the square using Tibetan knives, rocks and flaming gas bottles. Gunshots were heard.

One participant died, and another was injured when the police fought back, Palden said. The riot lasted about 20 minutes before the mob was dispersed. Thirteen people were arrested.

The riot frightened people. Yeshe Lhamo, 28, a nun at the local Buddhism academy, said she didn't feel comfortable going into the county seat until several days had passed. 'People are scared, and the atmosphere in the temples is tense,' she said. 'Violence is against monastic order. No one wants to see such things happen.' 


Palden, who is 48 and ethnic Tibetan, has been the county director in Seda for four years. 'Some people involved in the violence are not locals,' he said. 'They traveled all the way from Tibet autonomous region and Qinghai province, so it is obvious that the riot was planned. It's also the reason why the violence in Luhuo and Seda was only one day apart.'"

II. Two images from Free Tibet, a Tibetan advocacy group, reportedly from the same town and incident.

From FT1

From FT2
Photos from Free Tibet

III. An e-mailed statement from the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China

"The Chinese authorities have set up a massive security cordon in an attempt to prevent journalists from entering Tibetan areas in Western Sichuan Province where major unrest – including killings and self-immolations – has been reported.

The FCCC considers this a clear violation of China’s regulations governing foreign reporters, which allow them to travel freely and to interview anyone prepared to be interviewed.

Correspondents attempting to travel to the region in question have faced major obstacles, including detention by the police and roadblocks at which they have been stopped and turned back by officials who have then forcibly escorted them back to Chengdu. 'Bad roads' and 'weather' are being used as excuses for denying correspondents entry to the area.

One team reported that their car was suspiciously rammed by another vehicle. Reporters have been followed, questioned for hours, asked to write confessions and had their material confiscated.


Journalists are merely trying to do their job and independently confirm the truth of reports from the area. We call on the Chinese government to recognize our purely professional motivation and to abide by its own regulations that allow us to enter the areas in question."

February 01, 2012

Mr. Hu Xijin joins Twitter in China

If you're on Twitter and keep an eye on China news, here's an interesting account to follow: @HuXijinGT. Hu Xijin is the editor in chief of both the English and Chinese editions of Global Times, a state-run tabloid noted for its nationalist tendencies.

Screen shot 2012-02-01 at 1.38.39 PM

For the average Chinese person, accessing Twitter is impossible. China's online censorship regime blocks the site and other social networking platforms that it cannot control. To get on Twitter, users here must purchase Virtual Private Network software that opens a portal allowing them to skirt those restrictions.

Apparently, the chief of a newspaper run by the state that imposed those rules in the first place has done just that.

Hu bristled when a Wall Street Journal blog item pointed out his appearance on Twitter and described him as "a staunch defender of China’s need to censor the Internet."

Responding via Twitter, Hu wrote, "That's overstated."

Posting at 11:40 p.m. last night, Hu said that, "I understand China’s current Internet censorship but I support the gradual lift of it. I believe speech freedom is inevitable in China."

Something about the tone of that remark reminded me of an editorial the Global Times ran last month with the headline "Self-imposed exile reflects one’s waning influence." Commenting on the departure of dissident writer Yu Jie to the United States, the unsigned piece said in part that:

"China's environment for writers cannot achieve Western standards overnight, as some seem to require. This would mean, with many urgent tasks facing it, the nation should prioritize the needs of a few intellectual elites. This is impractical.

Such a requirement also indicates their selfishness in politics - their judgment on China's path depends on their own social clout, rather than whether the total benefits for the huge population could be improved. Once they find their own interests violated, they spare no efforts in advertising their personal feelings as 'public pains,' and try to attract various forces to help them combat the authorities."

Yu Jie held a press conference in Washington a few weeks ago in which he said his mistreatment by Chinese security officials included being beaten about the head, kicked on the chest and made to cower naked as he was photographed and taunted. A state security officer reportedly informed Yu Jie that he could have him buried alive and no one would ever know. 

Hu Xijin and his publication are not in the habit of exploring the details of those sorts of accusations. (Foreign Policy has an informative, and unflattering, profile of the publication here.)

Other Twitter users have sought to remind him. After Hu described an essay that complained about conditions at the U.S. Embassy visa hall in Beijing, an influential blogger and journalist here, Charles Custer, asked him how long artist and political provocateur Ai Weiwei was detained by the Chinese government. 

Screen shot 2012-02-01 at 12.41.56 PM

Ai responded with the answer: 1,944 hours.

Hu Xijin had no response.

His profile picture makes clear that he's proud of his days as a reporter in the field. It has him sitting on a sidewalk, his shoes dirty and a notebook in hand. It's marked Sarajevo. From 1993 to 1996, Hu was a People's Daily correspondent in Yugoslavia and covered the war. I imagine there were political directives about coverage in Sarajevo, but the image he chose for Twitter is that of a man who seeks interviews and opinions. 

But as of this writing, Hu is following only one account on Twitter: the Global Times.

Screen shot 2012-02-01 at 12.52.25 PM



"China Rises" is written by Tom Lasseter, the Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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