New more restrictive regulations came into force this month.
By Lopsang Gurung
Internet comes to Tibet (from Weibo). But censorship comes, too.
President Xi Jinping is obsessed with social media spiraling out of control, as censors are not quick enough when they cancel “dangerous” posts. Everywhere within the borders of the People’s Republic of China new forms of control are created and implemented.
However, Tibet is a special case, and the authorities believe that even more control is needed here. All residents of China like to use social media platforms consisting mostly of short videos such as Douyin and Kuaishou, whose combined users exceed 900 million. The huge number of users makes control and immediate censorship more difficult.
Earlier this month of May, the Tibet Autonomous Region Cyberspace Administration announced that “a special rectification work in the field of online live broadcasting and short videos in the whole region” was needed to confront unspecified “social threats.” New regulations came into force this month, too.
They include a very broad provision allowing the authorities to punish those who spread “vulgar” or “kitsch” content, or use “emotional” videos to attract users. It is true that, in Tibet just as everywhere else, there may be real problems of fraud and pornography connected with online short videos. However, broad and vague terminology allows for crackdowns on whatever the authorities may decide they do not like.
In fact, among innumerable possibilities of illegal use of short videos and webcasts, the regulations single out “undermining national religious policies,” “promoting harmful information about religion,” and “spreading xie jiao and feudal superstitions.”
There is a clear reference to the national regulations on religion and the Internet that came into force on March 1, 2022. These regulations declare any reference to religion on the web illegal, unless it comes from bodies connected with the five authorized religions that have obtained an ad hoc license and submit their content to the government for preliminary control. For all the others, even posting the image of a statue of Buddha is now illegal.
The reference to xie jiao , i.e., to the religious movements banned as “heterodox,” would not even have been needed, since outside the system of licenses referring to any religion is prohibited. However, the CCP likes to include in its regulations provisions wide enough to allow for a broader censorship. “Feudal superstitions” would allow to crack down on practices such as divination and healing that are not part of organized religion, yet contrasts with the current heavy propaganda for atheism.
The regulations also include a call to delation, as netizens are encouraged to immediately report forbidden contents to public security.