The people behind the cyberattacks on Occupy Central's mock referendum on political reform and the pan-democratic Apple Daily are not just criminals but idiots.
They don't just break the law; they end up encouraging more people to take part in the voting just to show support and place the editors and owner Jimmy Lai of Apple Daily on the moral high ground. We don't know if they were authorised by mainland authorities, as claimed by their victims, or were freelance nationalist hackers. No matter what, they are hurting the very cause they claim to support. Benny Tai Yiu-ting, co-founder of the Occupy movement, said yesterday that the volume of attacks on popvote.hk, the portal that supports the referendum on the web, was four times higher than usual.
Apple Daily websites in Hong Kong and Taiwan were repeatedly attacked in recent days and crashed completely one time.
There is that old chestnut about not agreeing with your opponents but being obligated to defend their right to express themselves. That especially holds true today. Survey after survey has shown public nomination, which underpins all three plans being voted on in the "referendum", does not have majority support. In fact, Occupy Central seriously compromised itself by throwing out all the other moderate pan-democratic proposals as well as those put forward by groups close to the political establishment.
Apple has given up all pretence of journalistic objectivity. It's not just promoting pan-democratic causes like Occupy's referendum but is effectively inciting the public against the government on all fronts.
But it's a free city. You don't have to support Occupy and Apple to believe they have the right to do what they do. Ultimately the only way to contest their extreme positions is through the court of public opinion. Attacking the referendum portal, for example, just gives Tai and his supporters an excuse to extend the voting by a week. He previously said if fewer than 100,000 people voted, he would have failed and would call it a day. But thanks to the attacks and Beijing's ill-timed white paper, an overwhelming number of referendum voters is now guaranteed.