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Messaging App Moves to Protect Identities of Hong Kong Protesters

Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protest
Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protest on June 12, 2019. (Photo: Studio Incendo)

An update to Telegram, planned for release over the next few days, will allow protesters to prevent mainland Chinese and Hong Kong authorities from discovering their identities in the app’s large group chats.

“Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging app, will allow users to cloak their telephone numbers to safeguard Hong Kong protesters against monitoring by authorities, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort,” said Reuters after speaking to a source on deep background.

Last month Citizen Truth reported the escalating and violent rhetoric coming from the Chinese Army toward the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

In a thinly veiled threat towards protesters, the Chinese government released a video in early August threatening violence against protesters who refused to “fall back.”

“The three-minute-long video, titled ‘Anti-Riot Drill Footage’ was released on the Chinese social media site Weibo and shows troops chanting ‘Fall back!’ and carrying a flag reading ‘WARNING: Stop Charging Or We Use Force.’ Despite the chilling nature of the video, it’s unlikely the bombastic video will do little to keep pro-democracy protestors from taking to the streets,” Citizen Truth said when the video was released.

Telegram’s Role in the Protests

Numerous outlets, along with the protestors in Hong Kong, stated Hong Kong police have engaged in excessive force during the months-long protests. 

In recent months rumors circulated of the Chinese government hacking into Telegram to identity Hong Kong protestors. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) from China’s Foreign Ministry is believed to be responsible for the cyber attacks. 

“The update to Telegram, planned for release over the next few days, will allow protesters to prevent mainland Chinese and Hong Kong authorities from discovering their identities in the app’s large group chats,” Reuters said after speaking to their source close to the situation.

Despite Telegram being suspect to hacking vulnerabilities, it continues to be a popular messaging application for activists around the world, especially in Hong Kong.

Telegram did not directly comment to questions concerning Hong Kong engineers finding a design flaw which could allow the totalitarian Chinese regime and their allies within the Hong Kong government to identify the names and locations of those attending and organizing protests. The collaboration between Hong Kong and China is at the heart of pro-democracy activists’ discontent with Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her administration within Hong Kong. 

Recent Updates

“The move by Telegram comes as Hong Kong police arrested a number of prominent activists and three lawmakers on Friday. Nearly 900 people have been arrested since the demonstrations began three months ago,” Reuters reported, drawing further speculation that anti-democracy forces were using advanced measures of surveillance against the protestors. 

However, that isn’t the only technological tactic being used against the pro-democracy forces. As tech website Gizmodo reported:

LIHKG, one of the most important websites used to organize pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, has been hit with a DDoS attack that temporarily took the forum offline this past weekend. And while no one knows for sure who’s behind the attack, we can take an educated guess. The Chinese government is very unhappy, to say the least, about the protests in Hong Kong that have been raging since June.

“Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she has caused ‘unforgivable havoc’ by igniting the political crisis engulfing the city and would quit if she had a choice, according to an audio recording of remarks she made last week to a group of businesspeople,” Reuters reported concerning a leaked audio statement from Lam.

The political crisis Lam refers to was ignited months ago by popular outrage over a proposed extradition bill that activists feared would have allowed China to extradite Hong Kong citizens to China for trumped-up and politically-motivated charges.

Hong Kong protests and discontent are still ongoing – pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have interpreted Lam’s statements as meaning Beijing is forcing her to stay in position in order to act as their conduit. Such speculation has not been confirmed. 

Walter Yeates

Walter Yeates is a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter who embedded at Standing Rock with military Veterans and First People in December 2016. He covers a range of topics at Citizen Truth and is open for tips and suggestions. Twitter: www.twitter.com/GentlemansHall or www.twitter.com/SmoothJourno Muckrack: https://muckrack.com/walteryeates

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  1. Saja Lutor September 9, 2019

    Such updates will take time and people had already lost their data thanks to Telegram vulnerability. I don’t think that people will continue using it. As I know they already look for the alternatives, but there are not many good ones. I prefer Utopia https://beta.u.is/ to all the others. It’s quite new but it’s really secure. It requires no personal data for registration and is fully anonymous and safe due to its decentralization.

    1. Tyler91 September 12, 2019

      Well, that’s exactly what I believe in and some other people do. The majority actually is already brainwashed and believes TG is safe. As for me, I am tired of Telegram. P.s. Never heard about Utopia, but it looks like a very promising product. Thanks for the link.

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