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Sad that China is intimidated by a 20-year-old

February 7, 2010

Rediff News (India)
February 4, 2010

Google's statement that it would leave China if
it continued with censorship has placed
India-born Tensin Seldon, an activist with
Students for a Free Tibet [ Images ], as a major
player in the controversy. But the 20-year-old
Stanford student is happy that the controversy
has brought attention to the Tibetan problem.

In January, university officials asked Seldon to
contact Google because her Gmail account had been
hacked. She contacted David Drummond, Google's
chief legal officer, who informed her that her
account was hacked by someone in China. Google
asked to examine her laptop. They found no virus
or malware in it but indicted that someone in
China too was logged into her account when she
accessed her account Google did not reveal the
names of other activists whose email accounts
were hacked. It was reported earlier that the
Dalai Lama's [ Images ] computer was also hacked.

Google said it found that the Gmail accounts of
Chinese and Tibetan activists had been
compromised in separate attacks involving
phishing and spyware. The New York Times quoted
independent security researchers, who said that
at least 34 corporations had been targets of
cyber attacks originating in China. Adobe said it
had been the victim of an attack, but said it did
not know if it was linked to the hacking of Google.

In India, M K Narayanan, the former national
security advisor, alleged that China tried to
hack computers at the prime minister's office, a charge which China denied.

"I can only speculate that the reason they
compromised my e-mail account is because of my
involvement with the freedom movement with
Students for a Free Tibet. The fact that they are
willing to put these many resources into
monitoring us, that shows that we are being
effective activists for Tibet and that our action
is making a difference and is noted in China," Seldon told

"That the long arm of Chinese security could
reach all the way to my home here at Stanford is
something I never would have suspected. It's very
disturbing when your Gmail account, which is as
personal as it gets, can be hacked into and breached," she said.

Seldon said she does not know any other activist
whose computer was hacked into. She was born and
raised in Dharamsala, India. Her family moved to
the US when she was young. She went to high
school in the San Francisco's Bay Area.

She appreciated the principled stand of Google at
least in this issue. "Taking this stance is
definitely a bit of a gamble. Google could lose
revenue in one of the largest Internet
populations, however, they are doing the ethical
thing that could encourage China to give more
freedom to its people and other minorities in places like Tibet," she said.

"Google has taken a stance, that it will not
comply with laws that violate basic human rights
and freedom. It is now living up to its motto,
'don't be evil.'"But they were not happy when
Google went to China with a self-censored serach website

A Google search from outside China for 'Tiananmen
Square' will show tanks and bloodshed, while will show flowers and sunshine. "I must
also add that in 2006, Students for a Free Tibet
warned Google that partnering with the Chinese
government would not lead to greater Internet
openness. In fact, instead of changing China for
the better, Google became a partner in censoring
and distorting information. Access to information
is a critical tool to Tibetans struggling for
human rights and freedom. I hope Google will
uphold its decision not to censor search results on," she said.

The laptop may have been infected with a
sophisticated form of malware programmed to
harvest and relay back Gmail passwords, before
erasing itself from a user's hard drive. Seldon
has been involved with the case of Dhondup
Wangchen, a Tibetan filmmaker who was imprisoned
by the Chinese government after making a
documentary about Tibet. Her parents were Tibetan
farmers who fled to India after China's
annexation of Tibet. "It is sad that the Chinese
government is intimidated by a 20-year-old," she said.

She plans to go into politics later in life. "I
am a Tibetan. If I don't speak on their behalf, who will?"

"Tibetan activists have become all too familiar
with these attacks in recent years. During the
March 2008 uprising in Tibet, we experienced a
marked increase in the volume and sophistication
of email and other cyber-based attacks designed
to collect information and to impede our work,"
Nathan Dorjee, Students for a Free Tibet's technology advisor, said.

'In mid-December, we detected a highly
sophisticated attack on our corporate
infrastructure originating from China. What at
first appeared to be solely a security
incident?albeit a significant one?was something
quite different,' Drummond wrote on his blog.
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