U.S. intelligence agencies monitoring China’s Internet say that from March 14 to Wednesday bloggers circulated alarming reports of tanks entering Beijing and shots being fired in the city as part of what is said to have been a high-level political battle among party leaders - and even a possible military coup.
The Internet discussions included photos posted online of tanks and other military vehicles moving around Beijing.
The reports followed the ouster last week of senior Politburo member and Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, who was linked to corruption, but who is said to remain close to China’s increasingly nationalistic military.
Chinese microblogging sites Sina Weibo, QQ Weibo, and the bulletin board of the search engine Baidu all reported “abnormalities” in Beijing on the night of March 19.
The comments included rumors of the downfall of the Shanghai leadership faction and a possible “military coup,” along with reports of gunfire on Beijing’s Changan Street. The reports were quickly removed by Chinese censors shortly after postings and could no longer be accessed by Wednesday.
The unusual postings included reports that military vehicles were sent to control Changan Street, along with plainclothes police officers and metal barriers.
Another posting quoted internal sources as saying senior Communist Party leaders are divided over the ouster of Mr. Bo. The divide was said to pit Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and against party security forces and Minister of Public Security Zhou Yongkang.
Late Wednesday, another alarming indicator came when Beijing authorities ordered all levels of public-security and internal-security forces under Mr. Zhou to conduct nationwide study sessions, although Mr. Zhou’s name was not on the order - a sign his future may be in doubt.
Additional references on Chinese social media included vague mention of high-level party political struggles and related police activity in Beijing.
One posting referred to a mysterious atmosphere in Beijing and a reported shooting Tuesday night. The posting was quickly censored by authorities.
PENTAGON CYBERSECURITY LACKING
A defense official told Congress this week that Pentagon security efforts against hackers and other threats remain weak.
Kaigham J. Gabriel, acting director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, told a Senate hearing Tuesday that the Pentagon is “capability-limited in cyber, both defensively and offensively.”
“We need to change that,” Mr. Gabriel said.
He noted that most details of cybersecurity threats and efforts to counter them can only be disclosed at the “special-access level,” the most secret security classification.