The Chen Guangcheng saga sags deeper into a marsh of disappointment and sadness every day. The latest news, reported by Reuters, is that spyware was found on his phone and tablet, given to him by his “supporters.”
But wait. The source of the story is NYU professor Jerome Cohen, who, if you haven’t been getting the drift recently, hates certain of Chen’s “supporters” — people like Bob Fu, who runs the evangelist Christian group ChinaAid. Reuters:
The devices were screened by NYU technicians within a few days and were found to have been loaded with hidden spying software, said Cohen, who arranged the fellowship for Chen at NYU Law School…
“These people supposedly were out to help him and they give him a kind of Trojan horse that would have enabled them to monitor his communications secretly,” said Cohen.
And of course, the confirmation via an anonymous source:
The iPad was eventually cleaned up and returned to Chen at his request, the second source said.
What does Bob Fu say?
“This is the first time I’ve heard of spyware,” said Fu, who was in southeast Asia when his wife delivered the devices. He called the allegations “ridiculous” and “like a 007 thing.”
Yes, this is one of those he-said, he-said stories, where both sides have a reason to lie and reasons not to, and one wonders the point in reporting any of it except for sheer entertainment value.
Fu said he consulted ChinaAid’s computer technician on Thursday and “my staffer is 100 percent sure that the only thing he added on the iPad was a Skype account.”
His technician did only routine things like “the activation of the iPad and iPhone, basic installment, iCloud… there was nothing else there. They have to provide evidence,” said Fu.
“Everything was transparent. There was nothing hidden,” he added.
Let’s make a counter-accusation, shall we?
But Mark Corallo, a media consultant who has been working with Chen, said that the gifts from Fu were taken away by NYU before the dissident received them.
“The devices were brand-new when ChinaAid gave them to NYU to give to Chen…”
Stop right there. If we could play a little Encyclopedia Brown — tell us, Mark Corallo, were the devices “brand-new,” as you say? Because Bob Fu seems to think his staffers were 100 percent sure that they installed Skype on those devices.
Possible liar Mark Corallo continues:
“…so there was no need or reason to perform any check,” he said in an email. “And none of these functions was on any of the devices provided to him by ChinaAid.”
He added that: “At least to Chen’s knowledge, none of these devices was ever found to have any tracking or listening mechanisms.”
Chen, predictably, had no comment. (Is he able to express an unscripted one?)
There’s still a lot we don’t know, so we won’t jump to conclusions. But let me just leave this here: what I think of Bob Fu. I’m practicing ascetic restraint right now.
Exclusive: Spyware claims emerge in row over Chinese dissident at NYU (Reuters)
I’m puzzled at Chen’s choice of mobile phone and tablet, which, other than siri, do not seem offer much help to someone who cannot see the only interface offered to operate it.