Belgian lawmaker targeted by digital attack after criticizing China

Belgian lawmaker targeted by digital attack after criticizing China

A Belgian lawmaker who criticizes the systematic oppression of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China has been the target of a digital attack. Belgian media reported. The Belgian Cyber ​​Security Center (CBB) associates the attackers with the Chinese state.

Samuel Cogolati, a lawmaker from the Greens party Ecolo, wrote a decree in early 2021 condemning the persecution of Uighurs in the northwestern Xinjiang region. He was talking about “crimes against humanity”.

At that time, the politician received a message in his work email from a so-called news organization claiming to know about human rights abuses in China. Cogolati realized it was an attack only when it was brought to his attention by the CBB. It is unclear exactly how the attack took place and whether the perpetrators managed to steal the data.


The Belgian cybersecurity center suspects hacking group APT31 is behind this, but says it’s not entirely sure. APT31 has ties to the Chinese government and is mostly associated with digital attacks against Communist Party critics.

According to the British business newspaper Financial Times, APT31 often uses so-called tracking pixels in attacks. For example, these thumbnails are hidden in an email to gather general information about a computer system. Other steps can then be taken with this data.

“If the Chinese Communist Party thinks it can scare us like this, it’s wrong,” Cogolati’s Ecolo party said in a statement. “We will continue our resistance until the camps are closed. Being the target of digital espionage is nothing compared to the persecution endured by millions of Uighurs, Tibetans and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.”

Clarity about size

Cogolati wants the scale of Chinese cyberattacks to be mapped. And the perpetrators must be punished by the European Union.

The politician was one of ten European politicians put on the sanctions list by China in March 2021. D66 Deputy Sjoerd Sjoerdsma was also stationed there. Beijing accused the group of “harming China’s sovereignty and interests, and maliciously spreading lies and disinformation.”

In May 2021, the day parliament was scheduled to hold a hearing with the Uighur victims, Belgian government sites were hit with a large-scale digital attack.

Source: NOS