Telecom Asia

Behind Falun Gong’s satellite hack: flashbacks, updates and nostalgia: Telecom Asia, August 2002

Behind Falun Gong’s satellite hack: flashbacks, updates and nostalgia: Telecom Asia, August 2002

SYNOPSIS: The Chinese government expresses fury over a case of satellite signal hijacking allegedly carried out by the outlaw Falun Gong religious cult. According to Sino Satellite Communications, two of its Sinosat-1 transponders were hijacked in late June 2002, interrupting TV transmissions of state broadcaster CCTV’s nine TV channels to rural villages, during which time “Falun Gong propaganda materials” were broadcast. The government vows to hunt down those responsible.

THEN: One unanswered question in the incident is where the alleged jamming took place. The MII suspects the jamming originated from overseas rather than inside China, a position possibly supported by the fact that overriding a satellite signal is not easily done with off-the-shelf equipment, and would require either commandeering an earth station or acquiring a portable industrial grade dish–neither of which is likely to go unnoticed inside China. That said, the Falun Gong have been accused of this sort of thing before. Group members allegedly hacked into cable TV signals to broadcast their own programs seven times in tire first half of 2002, with 15 cult members arrested for two specific incidents in March that year.

NOW: The Sinosat satellite hack is still something of a mystery, as the people behind it have yet to be publicly apprehended or identified. Even the origination point remains unknown, although the Chinese government has said they believe it originated from Taiwan–which Taiwanese officials have described as “far-fetched” In September 2002, the 15 Falun Gong members arrested for the March cable TV hacks were sentenced to between four and 20 years in jail. One of the 15 died in prison in December last year, allegedly after suffering “cruel torture”, according to a Falun Gong Web site Meanwhile, the satellite attack was allegedly repeated in October 2003 during coverage of China’s first manned space mission. In any case, the Chinese government is taking no chances the new Sinosat-II satellite, being developed by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology and slated for launch next year, is claimed to be “jam proof”, though officials admit they won’t know how jam proof it is until it’s in orbit, according to the China Daily.

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