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China blocks use of Tibetan language on learning apps, streaming services

The move aims at Tibetans' further assimilation into China's dominant Han Chinese culture, sources say.

By Sangyal Kunchok


A man speaks on his mobile phone at the Jokhang Temple in Tibet's regional capital Lhasa in a file photo.

Chinese government restrictions on use of the Tibetan language have now spread to video services and other online platforms, as Beijing continues to push the assimilation of China’s ethnic minorities into the dominant Han Chinese culture, according to Tibetan sources.

Following recent Chinese government directives, the China-based language learning app Talkmate and video streaming service Bilibili have now removed the Tibetan and Uyghur languages from their sites, sources say.

And under a government order announced on Dec. 20, foreign organizations and individuals beginning March 1 may no longer spread “religious content” online in China or Tibet, with religious groups inside China told they must obtain a special license to do so.

The regulation, “Measures on the Administration of Internet Religious Information Service,” was issued jointly by the State Bureau of Religious Affairs, the State Internet Information Office, the Ministry of Industry and Information, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of State Security and went into effect March 1.

Restrictions are now also in place on a wide range of social media platforms in Tibetan areas, a source inside Tibet told RFA this week.

“Specifically, those platforms where users go live to perform and communicate with their audiences have seen more restrictions put in place,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

“Tibetans are forbidden to speak in Tibetan while communicating, and if any Tibetan artist tries to represent Tibetan culture and tradition on their social media platform, their accounts are disconnected,” the source said.

“And if such performances go live, they are immediately interrupted by the government,” he added.

Also speaking to RFA, a researcher at the Dharamsala, India-based Tibet Policy Institute named Phentok confirmed China's new restrictions had gone into effect on March 1.

"Basically, these are intended to impose firm restrictions on Tibetans regarding what they share on their social media platforms," Phentok said.

Authorities in northwest China’s Qinghai province have already banned Tibetan social media groups tied to religion, warning group members they will be investigated and jailed if they continue to use them, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

Requirements for proficiency in Mandarin Chinese in testing and consideration for employment have meanwhile disadvantaged Tibetan students, as China seeks to promote the dominance of Chinese culture and language in Tibetan areas, sources say.

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago.

Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to assert national identity in recent years, with informally organized language courses in the monasteries and towns deemed “illegal associations” and teachers subject to detention and arrest.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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