Chinese authorities have taken the rare step of censoring an article in a Communist party magazine in which a top official urged tougher action for the “enormous” damage caused by US and other western cyber-spy attacks.
The September edition of the Chinese Cadres Tribune was recalled quietly from circulation and replaced with a version that did not include the five-page article by Lou Qinjian, vice-minister of the Ministry of Information Industry.
Censorship is routine in China but analysts said it was highly unusual for the writings of a senior figure to be excised.
Mr Lou’s article had been seen by some observers as Beijing’s riposte to complaints from officials in the US and Europe about alleged Chinese infiltration of government computer networks.
In the article, he had called for an active response to “major western nations led by the US” that were using IT to spy on China, undermine its policies towards Taiwan and threaten border security.
“In recent years, party, government and military organs and national defence research units have suffered many very serious losses of secrets, resulting in enormous and astounding damage to the national interest,” Mr Lou wrote.
Officials declined to comment on the reason for the excision, which highlights the sensitivities surrounding Chinese cyber-security and could hint at differences within the Communist party on how to handle the issue.
Political sensitivities are running high in Beijing ahead of the opening next month of the ruling party’s 17th Congress, which will decide the distribution of many powerful positions.
An official at the Tribune, which is published by the influential Central Party School, initially denied the September edition had been recalled, then said the action had been taken because of a printing problem.
The Ministry of Information Industry, which is responsible for the technology and telecoms sectors, declined to comment but confirmed that Mr Lou was still vice-minister.
Russell Leigh Moses, a political analyst in Beijing, said Mr Lou’s article might have been taken out because it upset China’s national security departments or military, or because it reflected disagreement with aspects of policy agreed by top leaders.
Mr Lou’s repeated citing of the US and other western nations as a threat – alongside “hostile” forces such as the banned Falun Gong group – could also have been judged diplomatically un-helpful.
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