BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese cable television service broadcast messages attacking the ruling Communist party and calling for the release of a pro-democracy activist, locals said, in what appeared to be a rare hacking attack.
Viewers in the eastern city of Wenzhou on Friday used social media to post images of television messages referring to the Communist party as "bandits" and photographs of a bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing.
Such images are almost never shown by media in China, where the Communist party censors anti-government messages and references to incidents it deems sensitive such as the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown when the army killed hundreds, by some estimates thousands, of protestors.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the messages, which appeared on several different channels available through a local cable broadcaster, though Internet users speculated that the provider had been "hacked".
"At the moment some areas of Wenzhou city are receiving unusual broadcasts, technical staff are currently trying to solve this issue, we hope viewers will understand," the Wenzhou branch of China Cable, said on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
Several photos posted on Sina Weibo - which were later deleted - showed a TV screen displaying a banner which read "Free Wang Bingzhang,", referring to a Chinese pro-democracy activist jailed for life in 2003.
"Communist bandits are the real criminals," a message shown in the corner of one viewer's screen added.
Another photograph showed a message reading "Friends, don't co-operate with Communist devils," imposed on top of a broadcast of a basketball match.
Another photograph showed the channel displaying the iconic "Tank Man" photo from the 1989 crackdown, showing a lone man standing in front of a column of tanks.
Cable subscribers were also shown graphic images showing apparent human rights abuses in the country, such as a protester being squashed under a truck.
Internet users expressed surprise at the broadcasts, which were said to have ended late Friday, with some speculating that hackers were behind the attack.
"This is a significant event for the television industry," one Sina Weibo user wrote, while another said "It seems that Wenzhou has been hacked, haha haha."