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Student, caught in cyberattack, applauds Google stand

Original post made on Jan 18, 2010

Stanford University sophomore Tenzin Seldon was not entirely surprised to learn that someone from China had hacked into her Gmail account. The 20-year-old activist is a leader in the group Students for a Free Tibet, publicizing Chinese human-rights abuses in the disputed territory.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, January 18, 2010, 8:48 AM

Comments (20)

Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2010 at 9:37 am

I visited Tibet last year. I was very disappointed to see the Chinese trying to ruin the traditional Tibetian culture. They built huge new Chinese monuments adjacent to all the major Tibetian historical sites. The Chinese also bringing huge numbers of settlers from China into Tibet in an attempt to dilute the Tibetian culture.

Large parts of the Tibetian culture are now banned by Chinese law in Tibet. Hint to other tourists: border guards will confiscate Lonely Planet tourist books that include a few paragraphs written by the Dalai Lama.

Very inspiring to see a 20 year old showing such leadership on this issue. Best wishes, Miss Seldon.

Posted by Judith
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2010 at 11:05 am

Yes, it is very sad. It is annoying for tourists to have their books confiscated. If you were Tibetan with that book, your life might very well be confiscated with it. When we visited Tibet 6 years ago, we were shown the wall against which dissidents were shot.

99% of Tibetan cultural and religious institutions, building and people (meaning monks and lamas) were destroyed by the Chinese. Those that remain were kept to attract tourists. Still the Tibetans like to see outside visitors and hope that we can tell their story to the world.

Posted by Bob
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 18, 2010 at 12:56 pm

This issue of Tibet is far more complicated that most of us living in the West understand. Tibet's vast wastelands offer China a land buffer on its southwest flank. While is now impossible to believe that a land army could invade China proper via Tibet--try telling the Chinese that.

Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Calling Tibet a "vast wastland" is very disrespectful to the people who have lived there for thousands of years. Or are you talking about what China is trying to do to the country now?

Posted by Bob
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 18, 2010 at 1:22 pm

> Calling Tibet a "vast wastland" is very disrespectful

Get Real! Look at the map. What is the population density of this country? What is its GDP? How many miles of roadways does it have? What is the literacy rate? How many universities does it have? What is the notional per-capita assets of the country?

This is a country that was lost in time. The Chinese Communists are doing it no good, but the Tibetans were not doing it much good either.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 18, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Is Bob trying to defend genocide? I cannot think of a better word to describe with the Chinese are doing in Tibet.

Posted by T
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Google is merely finding an excuse to pull out of China because there is too much competition in the search-engine market, with companies such as Baidu taking over much the said market. China isn't profitable enough for them, but they have to pull out honorably: thus blaming the Chinese government, accusing hackers, etc.

I hate to rub salt on the wound, but can't we say the whole Tibet situation is reminiscent of Americans->Native Americans?

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2010 at 5:29 pm

It is very courageous of this young student to allow her name a photo to be published.
Good luck to her, we hope she stays safe and does not have family in China or Tibet.
People who know how the Chinese Peoples Army operates in China and abroad know that the ChiComms have very long memories and are ruthless

I see that Google is investigating if the hackers had help from Google employees in China.
If that turns out to be the case then a lot of local companies will have have to drastically tighten their security and hiring practices-- they should be doing so anyway, remember when Huawei stole Ciscos source code a few years back?
Huawei then tried to buy 3COM but we stopped the deal for National Security reasons.

Most of the China cyber attacks are for industrial espionage at to steal US defense secrets, and they are relentless.

Posted by good news
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 18, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Finally...Google is starting to wake up.

I slowed my google use when they went into China, but then was talked out of that by folks who convinced me that they, even if following the rules of China, were better than anyone else for the Chinese..but then when they got heavily into politics and supported the current ruling party, I pulled out totally.

Maybe they are starting to see the light..they were very, very naive in their leadership, and maybe it is growing up. Maybe the execs of Google wanted to look in the mirror and not see folks supporting oppression. Who knows?

or maybe it is simply all about money..who knows? whatever is working, I am glad they are pulling away from if they would just pull out of our politics, I might support them again one day.

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 19, 2010 at 11:04 am

"Do No Evil" is a silly undefinable, meaningless phrase to get young idealistic kids to keep working in an industry that seeks to manipulate the minds of billions and will eventually chew up and spit out most of them.

Most search engines are pretty bad compared to what is around to search databases, and there still is not a good reliable phone book online that I know of anyway.

The whole thing from DNS was totally unnecessary, and the idea of charging all the domainholders $50-100 to type their names into a list was yet another scam, though it is cheaper now ... by law.

I wonder when the world is going to reap the benefits of compjuter technology without the prisons of Microsoft and the boundaries or Google or any other company?

China is always portrayed as this terrible totalitarian regime, and there is certainly truth to that, but what is happening here? At least China has upped the living standards of most of its people by many multiples in the last generation.

It sure seems like the US is not very democratic these days, unless you have lots of money that is. Maybe the US is just better at controlling people with disinformation than China is. The point is it has not been that long since we had real or virtual slavery here, and the US is lagging most of the other western countries in every metric save the size of financial scamming and the military budget.

By the way, in care you think I am pro-Chinese, the person who claimed China needed a military buffer zone to protect itself is just an excuse for expansionism and a resource grab. So now instead of having to go through Tibet to attack China they can attack China directly ... is that it? Doesn't seem like much of an improvement ... of course we are probably talking about India that has not attacked anyone and it is the largest democracy in the world.

This is probably not even about countries but about money as it is here too. Why do people cheer or root for their countries to "win" when they get nothing from it but the delusion of associated victory from someone else they do not even know?

"Do No Evil" is a nice idea though, maybe someone can tell me what the hell it means?

Posted by Vivek
a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2010 at 11:32 am

@T, get real. Google has been gaining steadily on Baidu in market share over recent years. Here's a bunch of myths on China's pull-out rebuked.

Web Link

@Bob, Tibet is not a wasteland. The Tibetan plateau is the origination of pretty much all of Asia's great rivers (Indus, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Yangtze) and China's control of these rivers is vital for its security in a warming world. In the coming century, the water in these rivers might as well be oil in terms of what they're worth.

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 19, 2010 at 11:41 am

Vivek ... what's your point here:
> China's control of these rivers is vital for its security in a
> warming world. In the coming century, the water in these
> rivers might as well be oil in terms of what they're worth.

To justify the grabbing of Tibet by China, and the grabbing
of control of the Middle East by the US? The war or the titans?

Posted by John Roberts
a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Sergey Brin deserves a Nobel peace prize for taking a stand against China's cyber-Gestapo. Sure, in 2006, trying to work with China might have been the right thing to do. We all hoped, after all, that once China got into the WTO and hosted the 2008 Olympics that things would get better, China would not only modernize, but also loosen up politically -- give its people a taste of freedom. But the opposite happened. In the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, China's repression of dissent grew stronger. Now it has sentenced one of the founders of Charter '08 to 11 years in jail for exercising free speech. A Tibetan filmmaker was just sentenced to 6 years. And China is getting aggressive on the cultural front internatially, pressuring the organizers of the Frankfurt book fair and now the Palm Springs Film Festival for daring to include writers banned in China and a documentary about Tibet. No, instead of becoming freer, China has become more dictatorial. So Brin had to choose between collaborating with a dictatorship, or threatening to pull out and lose Google's 35% market share in China's search engine marketplace. It is too bad that more business leaders don't stand up to China, before it is too late. By the way, those cyber-attacks not only hacked email -- China's cyber-Gestapo uses the hacked computers to turn on the audio and listen to everything that goes on around the computer. If a webcam is enabled, they can add video to their intelligence haul. This is serious stuff, folks. Read more about what you can do on my blog at

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 19, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I'd like to send compliments to Tenzin Seldon and Students for a Free Tibet. I support you. Through a relative I have met someone with the organization, and I understand better about the challenging situation.

Posted by Native American
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 19, 2010 at 7:35 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff].

Posted by activist ?
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 19, 2010 at 8:41 pm

>>Sergey Brin deserves a Nobel peace prize
??? it looks like he regards what he has said already... Let's wait and see.

Folks, does spy happens very day and everywhere? I am sure that CIA spy thousands people, and now, we think other government can't/should not spy on us?

Give me a break!

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Actually we do not mind the CIA or the FBI spying on us because we have nothing to hide.
We do worry about Chinas secret service spying on us and our universities
They have funded 1000s of " Confucius Centers" to promote their espionage and also fund " Mandarin Schools"

Posted by kudos google
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 20, 2010 at 4:36 am

sharon...why bother even answering such a post?

anyone who doesn't have the eyes to see the difference between our CIA and a totalitarian spy system is blind. Why bother?

This thinking is right up there with accusing the USA of "occupying" Haiti in its efforts to protect the innocent in Haiti from the corrupt and violent. Such thought patterns belong to Chavez and France, both of whom I am sure would agree that our CIA and China's totalitarianismm are no different...

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2010 at 8:40 am

This issue now being taken very seriously, Clinton will address the issue at a major foreign policy address tomorrow. See Web Link

"On Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will give what is expected to be a major foreign policy address in Washington that will touch on Internet security and commerce as well as issues of digital freedom of expression.

A few days before Google went public Jan. 12 with news of the attack, CEO Eric Schmidt, along with executives from Cisco Systems, Twitter and Microsoft, had a private two-hour dinner with Clinton in Washington to discuss the Internet and foreign policy.

"This was the secretary of state engaging Silicon Valley on how to harness technology in service of America's diplomatic goals," said Alec Ross, Clinton's senior adviser for innovation.

Technology leaders say they will be listening to Clinton's speech with an ear to what she says about Internet security. Increasingly, data security experts say, so-called "malware" is the spear point of an intensifying global contest that involves spying and the theft of valuable corporate secrets.

"The cyber surveillance has increased; the cyber intrusions have been increasing, so it was coming to a head," said Edward Black, CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association. With the attacks on Google, "it has bubbled over to a very public discussion."

The increase in malicious software has been so rapid that 60 percent of the 5.9 million pieces of malware code the software security company Symantec has in its database were created in the past 15 months — more than in the previous 20 years combined."

The UK Financial Times has a number of articles on this topic today.

Posted by Chris
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 1, 2010 at 12:29 am

Wow, this 20 year old is doing more than many politicians. Way to go, it's great seeing amazing leaderships by our youth. I can completely understand the Tibetan people's plight and now I'm inspired to do my best to help with the struggle.

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