By Tenzin Dharpo
Reclaim the net. Image-TCHRD
DHARAMSHALA, Sept. 3: In a new diktat that is set to further curb the freedom of speech and other rights inside occupied Tibet’s Qinghai Province, Chinese authorities have announced that “illegal” online content is punishable under the law for 1 to 8 years in prison.
Last month, Chinese authorities in Qinghai Province issued an urgent notice that calls for increased monitoring and management of online chat groups and individual users “at all times and in all places”, Dharamshala based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said citing a podcast by the local Chinese government media.
The new notice listed 10 rules to be followed by online users to essentially follow a strict government approved line to restrict information flow and resist any information that are against the status quo. The rules include not sharing information on sensitive political matters, government officials, military, documents of state secret, information related to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, among others.
The notice that targets any groups with more than 10 members on chat platforms bans posting and sharing of “illegal” information that “harms the nation and the Chinese Communist Party” and warned the members to show “self-restraint”, “keep a tight lip by not sharing rumours”, and stop sharing “sensitive information”.
“The moderators of online chat groups are specifically instructed to shoulder major responsibilities in managing the behaviour of group members and the contents they share. The notice added that all relevant government departments including the internet authorities are “closely monitoring” all chat groups including their status updates or ‘moments’ and the offenders will be ‘”dealt with strictly according to the law””, the rights group said.
Online censorship and monitoring is operated on hyper-drive by China in occupied Tibet with users who share information and even a photo of the exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama persecuted and imprisoned.
Micro messaging site We-Chat owned by Chinese company Tencent is considered one of the most dangerous apps for Tibetans by cyber experts. The application which is the world’s largest messaging platform has more than 963 million monthly active users and is being used by 70 percent of Tibetans in the diaspora, many of whom have relatives and family inside occupied Tibet that they communicate through the app.