Belgian MP targeted by digital attack after criticizing China 12:01 in Abroad , Tech MP Samuel Cogolati, from the green party Ecolo, drafted a resolution condemning the repression of the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.

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Member of Parliament Samuel Cogolati
NOS News

A member of parliament in Belgium who was critical of the systematic repression of China’s Uyghur Muslim minority was the target of a digital attack. Belgian media report this. The Center for Cybersecurity Belgium (CBB) links the attackers to the Chinese state.

MP Samuel Cogolati of the green party Ecolo drafted a resolution in early 2021 condemning the repression of the Uighurs in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. It referred to “crimes against humanity”.

Around that time, the politician received a message in his work email from a so-called news organization claiming to have information about human rights violations in China. Cogolati only realized that it was an attack when he was alerted to it by the CBB. It is not clear how exactly the attack took place and whether the perpetrators succeeded in stealing data.


The Belgian cybersecurity center suspects that hacker group APT31 is behind it, but says it is not completely sure about this. APT31 has ties to the Chinese government and is more commonly 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 small images are hidden in an e-mail in order to collect general information about a computer system. Subsequent steps can then be taken with that data.

“If the Chinese Communist Party thinks they can intimidate us in this way, they are mistaken,” 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 cyber attacks to be mapped. And the perpetrators must be punished by the European Union.

In March 2021, the politician was one of ten European politicians who were put on a sanctions list by China. D66 MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma was also placed there. Beijing accused the group of “damaging Chinese sovereignty and interests and maliciously spreading lies and disinformation”.

In May 2021, Belgian government sites were hit by a large-scale digital attack, on the day that parliament had scheduled a hearing with Uyghur victims.

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