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    Anonymous Sets Sights on Chinese Websites

    A screen grab of Anonymous' message claiming targets in China.
    A screen grab of Anonymous' message claiming targets in China.

    Message from hacktivist group claims to have brought down, defaced, or leaked information from at least 500 websites over past week

    The international hacking group "Anonymous" says it has attacked hundreds of Chinese websites, including several government pages, to protest China's tough Internet censorship policies.

    An online message posted by the group claims to have brought down, defaced, or leaked information from at least 500 websites in China during the past week. The websites include several city government sites, as well as general commercial pages.

    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei acknowledged Thursday that the Beijing government was the "victim of hacking," but he insisted Chinese web surfers are free to express their views.

    "China's cyber policy is transparency and openness and all citizens can express their views on the Internet. The reason China can have such a large number of netizens is because of its openness," said Hong. "China operates the Internet according to law. In this case China is a victim of hacking."

    On one Chinese government website, hackers left a taunting message decrying Chinese Internet restrictions and providing tips on how to circumvent China's massive online censorship network, referred to by many as the "Great Firewall of China."

    The "hacktivist" group says it is disrupting the sites to protest the "tyranny" of the Chinese government, which it says has subjected its people to "unfair laws and unhealthy processes."

    Many social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China. Instead, Chinese citizens use wildly popular versions known as "weibos," which are tightly controlled by government monitors. Controversial or politically sensitive material posted online is regularly removed by web censors.

    Many of the Chinese websites hacked by Anonymous have already been restored. But as of Thursday, some still displayed error messages.

    The shadowy, loose-knit group regularly claims responsibility for attacks on websites around the world, as part of an effort to promote various social or political causes or condemn what it views as wrongdoing by governments or corporations.

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