The vast cache of classified diplomatic cables published last week by controversial whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks is already having repercussions for rights campaigners and liberal-minded officials and academics alike, according to Chinese analysts.
Critics have already hit out at the site's founder, Julian Assange, who has replied that sources named in the U.S. diplomatic cables, which number a quarter of a million, have had a year to prepare for any consequences.
Assange said recently that WikiLeaks had "no choice" but to go ahead with publication after an apparent misunderstanding between WikiLeaks and the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper led to their password being made public.
Activists around the world fear that hundreds of named people who spoke frankly to U.S. diplomats may now face retaliation from authoritarian governments.
Lists of names of Chinese "informants" began to circulate on the Internet last week, prompting fears that the sources, many of whom are civil rights activists, may now be at risk from hate attacks, or accused of spying for the U.S. by their own government.
Among names on one of the lists circulating was that of Beijing-based rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, who has denied being on U.S. payrolls or informant networks.
"I am a lawyer ... not someone who has access to state secrets in a government department," Liu said in a recent interview. "There is no mention of my revealing any state or corporate intelligence in the English version [of the cables]."
Liu didn't deny speaking to U.S. officials, however. "I chatted to them about some of the legal cases that were under way," he said. "I spoke a bit about the points of view of those people."
"I never got any financial assistance from them whatsoever, nor did I do anything [for them]," he said.
He dismissed netizens who have denounced him as a "lackey of the West."
"This is a Cultural Revolution mentality," Liu said, referring to the political turmoil of 1966-1976, during which millions of ordinary Chinese were publicly denounced, humiliated, and punished for "counterrevolutionary crimes" by political lynch mobs, armed gangs, and kangaroo courts.
Others named on the lists included Zhang Jianguo, deputy head of the foreign experts bureau; Wang Zhenyao, former deputy director of welfare at the ministry of civil affairs; and Chen Lingshan, international news editor at the Beijing-based Xinjing News.
Veteran China analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam said the release of the latest tranche of cables from WikiLeaks is a great blow to reformists within the Chinese establishment.
"Even those academics who are usually quite outspoken will be much quieter after this, at least in the short-term, because if they carry on espousing universal values or Western-style political reforms or liberalization, they are going to come under even more attack," Lam said.
Lam said action will likely be taken against some of the informants.
"They are likely to punish some officials in cases where there is definite evidence, according to the logic of Beijing's own internal security mechanisms," he said.
Meanwhile the lists of names compiled ostensibly from the WikiLeaks cables continued to circulate on websites and popular microblogging platforms this week.
Assange, an Australian hacker who sparked fury in Washington with the release of a slew of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, hit out at Beijing's aggressive censorship of the Internet earlier this year, calling China the "technological enemy" of WikiLeaks.
In an interview with Britain's New Statesman magazine, Assange said China's complex system of blocks, filters, and human censorship known as the Great Firewall is the biggest impediment to WikiLeaks online.
He said WikiLeaks has been fighting "a running battle" to get its leaked documents through to Chinese netizens.
Reported by Bi Zimo for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.