China activists plan whistleblower site to spur reform
HONG KONG — Chinese activists are planning to launch a whistleblowing website modelled on WikiLeaks in a bid to expose state secrets and spur political reform, the South China Morning Post reported Friday.
The activists, who are using social networking sites like Twitter to mobilise and call on people to upload classified information to their database, said it plans to launch "Government Leaks" on June 1 next year, the daily said.
The site's founder -- identified only as "Deep Throat" -- said the website would go online just days ahead of the 22nd anniversary of the bloody June 4 crackdown on democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen square.
"I think that by making government secrets open we can promote democracy in China," he told the English-language daily.
"This is a fight against the dictatorship, and to return the right to information to the people. I believe it will advance China's political reform."
"Deep Throat" said that he had originally wanted to team up with WikiLeaks, but that emails sent to the website had bounced back undelivered.
"Government Leaks has no relation with WikiLeaks, but you can call us the copycat version of WikiLeaks in China," he told the paper, adding that the site would continue to approach WikiLeaks for help.
A team of experts has been enlisted to run the China-based site, including journalists, editors, lawyers and hackers, who will safeguard against likely attempts by government censors to shut it down, the site's founder said.
The website is expected to anger Beijing, which heavily monitors Internet traffic and restricts freedom of speech.
Beijing operates a vast system of web censorship, sometimes referred to as the "Great Firewall of China". It blocks access to any content the government deems unacceptable, ranging from pornography to political dissent.
A number of leading Chinese bloggers have voiced their concern about Government Leaks, saying it could expose whistleblowers to severe punishment.
"In the worst case the informer could be prosecuted for illegally possessing state secrets," the paper quoted blogger "Zola" as writing.
Alice Xin Liu, who writes for the Beijng-based blog Danwei, said the new website would likely fall flat.
"On a practical level I don't see it working," she told AFP.
"I don't think every day people or those without the technological knowledge would be willing to put themselves on the line. The risks are simply too great."
Government Leaks' founder said his group would avoid using normal email channels to communicate with informers and was studying the use of high-security technologies to receive sensitive information.
"Deep Throat" said he was inspired by the US Watergate scandal of the 1970s, which eventually led to the resignation of then president Richard Nixon, as well as the recent success of WikiLeaks.
"Deep Throat" was the pseudonym of an informant -- identified three decades later as a senior FBI official -- who leaked sensitive information about the Nixon administration's involvement in the scandal.
WikiLeaks gained widespread notoriety in July when it published nearly 77,000 classified US military documents on the war in Afghanistan, provoking the wrath of the Pentagon.
The site is expected soon to release some 400,000 secret military reports on the US-led Iraq war.
Founded in 2006 by Australian Julian Assange, WikiLeaks first grabbed headlines when it released a graphic video of a US military Apache helicopter strike in Baghdad in 2007 that killed two journalists and a dozen civilians.
In September, Assange, 39, was accused of rape in Sweden. He dismissed the allegations as part of a "smear campaign" aimed at discrediting WikiLeaks.