updated 03:32 pm EDT, Fri June 21, 2013
Blame placed on Chinese government, wife of activist Bob Fu
An iPhone and an iPad given to Chinese political dissident Chen Guangcheng had spyware preloaded, Reuters sources claim. Chen is famous for escaping house arrest in China and taking refuge in the US embassy in Beijing. The activist eventually arrived at New York University Law School on a fellowship; the spyware, which would've let the Chinese government track Chen's position and monitor his communications, was reportedly found through a screening by NYU technicians. The iPad was eventually scrubbed and returned to Chen at his request, one source says.
Some blame is being placed on Heidi Cai, who gave the devices to Chen as a gift in May 2012, after he and his family had moved into a New York apartment. Cai is the wife of Chinese activist Bob Fu, who runs a Christian group called ChinaAid, which helps underground churches in China as well as victims of forced abortions. Fu is calling the accusations "ridiculous," and "like a 007 thing." He states that he and Cai simply thought that Chen's family would want to call their relatives, and decided to give them communication options. He adds that a ChinaAid computer technician tells him "the only thing he added on the iPad was a Skype account."
A media consultant who has been helping Chen, Mark Corallo, says that the iPhone and iPad were "brand-new when ChinaAid gave them to NYU to give to Chen, so there was no need or reason to perform any check." He comments that "At least to Chen's knowledge, none of these devices was ever found to have any tracking or listening mechanisms." Reuters sources argue that Chen was told within days of his coming to the US that some of his supporters might actually be spying on him. Chen was "furious" and "very upset" when he heard this, one of the sources remarks. The activist is, however, said to have continued to associate with the Fu family.
Chen's fellowship was recently ended. He accuses NYU of bending to pressure from the Chinese government, and some of his supporters charge that the university is afraid of offending China while still aiming to build a campus in Shanghai. NYU insists that the fellowship was only ever intended to last one year.