Activist and pro-democrat Jason Chao said that he, along with other pro-democrat election candidates, received notifications from social media, email, and instant messaging service providers, including an alert from Google, about unauthorized login attempts.
In a press conference Chao held yesterday, the activist lamented that Google warned them that “government hackers” may be trying to steal their passwords. He further speculated on the cyber attackers’ identity.
“I speculate that it would be the Chinese government. To the best of my knowledge, the Macau government is not that capable of developing hacking technologies. The origin of the hackers should be from China rather than Macau,” said the former president of the New Macau Association (ANM).
The cyber attacks were allegedly conducted before the September 17 election. “All the attacks ceased to exist one day after the election. I don’t think that is a coincidence,” he said.
However, login attempts across several social media platforms and email were also reportedly noticed at the beginning of the campaign.
According to the activist, forces in a level beyond the local government were probably involved in the cyber attacks as the overall campaign was against the non-establishment camp.
Questioned on possible reasons why such a move might have been made against them, Chao replied, “probably the authorities wanted to know our activities in order to better strategize media campaign or other campaign, but this is just my speculation.”
The activist also noted that he provided a private VPN (virtual private network) service to ANM to access Telegram, as the instant messaging service provider allegedly became recently inaccessible.
Meanwhile, Project Just Macau, a platform created earlier this year by Chao to monitor election fairness in the territory and to promote citizens’ engagement in democratic processes, received about 10 complaints of irregular activities during the electoral campaign and the voting day.
Chao concluded that there are some structural problems and explained that there are intricate links between public resources and election campaigns.
He noted that “traditional associations” in the region do not include only political organizations that present candidates at elections, but also operators of schools, and the providers of social services who are heavily subsidized by the government, citing the Macau General Union of the Neighborhood Associations (known as “Kai Fong”) as an example.
Although there may not be a direct link between public money and the election campaign, the activist explained that organizations such as Kai Fong could use the advantage of the social capital gained from operations funded by public money, in their election campaign.
“These traditional organizations easily transfer the social capital accumulated in their public money subsidized operation to their advantage, such as social connections,” Chao criticized.
Meanwhile, the political activist has reiterated his critiques on the regulations of Electoral Affairs Commission for the Legislative Assembly Election (CAEAL) in relation to the recent elections, noting that CAEAL’s assumptions of an unquestioned superiority of its binding instructions are worrying.
Although he agreed that the commission should have the authority to issue binding instructions and that relevant violations may constitute a crime, Chao said that CAEAL is assuming a high degree of authority in criminalizing several activities related to the election.
He also decried the Commission Against Corruption’s (CCAC) judgment on the light meals provided to some elderly residents during the election day, which the bureau said should not be considered electoral corruption.
The comparison was made between the provision of light meals and the distribution of cents through WeChat, of which the latter instance was promised to be investigated.
“This is unimaginable and highly questionable on whether or not CCAC is trying to protect anyone,” Chao said.
Chao: ‘I will shift my interest to a greater area’
Jason Chao is set to leave for the United Kingdom tomorrow for a post-graduate degree on Big Data. After being involved in politics since 2005, his focus will no longer be limited to the geographical area of the territory.
According to him, he will still be representing Macau’s non-government organizations in UN meetings, yet with a new reach: “My interest will not be limited to the geographical area of Macau. I will shift my interest to a greater area.”
Questioned on his observations during his years of activism, Chao said that there has been a general deterioration of the public’s rights protection.
Although this is an issue which does not just apply to Macau, he acknowledged that the central government has an influence on the matter.
“When we talk about Macau politics, we have to take China into account. Unfortunately we live in a place where politics is heavily influenced […] by Chinese politics and the politics of elsewhere,” he said
The activist sees that authorities are more eager to collect information on the region’s activists, adding that it is now easier to press charges against them.
Another concern is the deterioration of the region’s civil society, implying that citizens still lack awareness on the need to fight for greater freedom.