China has dismissed allegations made in a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable
that one of its most senior leaders ordered a hacker attack on Internet
giant Google after he found negative references to himself using the
"It is ridiculous and not worth mentioning," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing on Tuesday.
"We hope [this] will not affect bilateral ties with the United States," she said.
The cyber attack was traced back to locations in China, prompted Google to close its China-based search service in March, and was targeted at the e-mail accounts of Chinese rights activists, Google said at the time.
Among the diplomatic cables obtained by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks was one in which an unidentified Chinese contact said the attack was orchestrated by two Chinese Communist Party Politburo members.
The cable quoted the Chinese source as saying the operation was ordered by propaganda czar and fifth-most powerful leader Li Changchun, with the assistance of top law enforcement official Zhou Yongkang, according to a report in the New York Times.
Google has so far declined to comment on the WikiLeaks cable. A request for comment made to the company's office in Beijing went unanswered on Monday.
Calls to China's Ministry of Information Industry also went unanswered during office hours on Monday.
Hangzhou-based rights activist and blogger Zan Aizong said that no one in China had been able to access Google services in the country immediately after the attack.
"After this happened, you couldn't find any negative news about Li Changchun anywhere on Google," Zan said.
"But netizens still managed to find it, using circumvention tools to get past the Great Firewall," he said, referring to a complex system of blocks, filters, and censorship mechanisms employed by the Chinese government to control what its citizens can see online.
"Either that or they can use Twitter...to post information about Li Changchun," said Zan.
He cited as an example reports that the cutting-edge Southern Metropolis News received several hundred directives each year from Li's central propaganda department banning coverage of "sensitive" news items.
Volunteers have been busy translating the cables into Chinese on the WikiLeaks site, which has been blocked in China for about two years, netizens said.
"We are simply translating them, with no regard for our opinion about them," said one volunteer editor on the WikiLeaks site.
"We just translate whatever is written there. The cables that have been published on the site so far haven't mentioned Li Changchun," he said.
"That came from some overseas reports," he said, referring to a number of U.S. and U.K.-based newspapers that were fed some of the cables exclusively by WikiLeaks.
However, a 2007 cable released on the site this week quoted vice-premier Li Keqiang as saying that China's GDP figures were "man-made" and therefore unreliable.
U.S.-based economist Ding Li said there is a lot of current interest in research into how China arrives at its economic forecasts.
"There is one person in our research institute who goes to China every year to spend time in the National Bureau of Statistics ...The people there told him that the GDP figures are basically made up," Ding said.
"Actually, a lot of overseas academics have doubted Chinese figures for a long time now."
Xie Tian, professor of management at the University of South Carolina, said current measures are failing to give a clear view of how China's economy really works.
"If the basic figures [underlying the calculation] are problematic, then that has unimaginable implications for the whole of Chinese society," Xie said.
WikiLeaks started publishing last weekend what it said were more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, some of them about China.
The site's founder, Julian Assange, was arrested in London on Tuesday in connection with sexual assault allegations arising from a trip to Sweden in August 2010.
Reported by Xin Yu and Shi Shan for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.