China announces criminal prosecutions to ‘strike hard’ against Tibetans over online dissent

DHARAMSALA, 29 Dec: Chinese authorities have issued a stern notice against Tibetans in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region(TAR) against employing online communication tools to “split the country” and “undermine national unity” announcing criminal prosecutions to ‘strike hard’ against offenders.

Listing a range of illegal online activities such as using the virtual private network (VPN) and joining discussion groups, Chinese internet police in the TAR has yet again announced criminal prosecutions against Tibetans over online activities, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), a Dharamsala- based rights group has said citing a notice dated 24 November 2020.

China often issues notices criminalising online activities in Tibet. For a record fifth year in a row, Tibet was ranked the second least free region in the world earlier this May for political rights and civil liberties by the US-based NGO Freedom House.

A similar notice that criminalised online activities to “collect, produce, download, store, publish, disseminate, and publicise malicious attacks against the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government, the socialist system, the regional ethnic autonomy system, and the party and the government’s policy of managing TAR,” was issued in February 2019, TCHRD added.

The Tibetan rights group further stated that such notices are prevalent across Tibet. In 2017, “online censorship regulations were imposed on online users particularly group administrators and owners of public online accounts by the Machu (Ch: Maqu) County internet police in Kanlho (Ch: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province,” the report added.

In 2019, Chinese authorities announced a steep punishment of up to eight years’ imprisonment to Tibetans for online dissent in  Qinghai Province.

The notice issued on Thursday comes with a stern warning that offenders of what china deems illegal and criminal activities on the Internet “shall be held accountable in accordance with the law.”

Describing China’s tight grip on the internet already in place across Tibet, TCHRD stated in the report that “It is impossible for Tibetans to access the internet without leaving a searchable footprint for authorities,” and to contain the flow of information, “Tibetans are routinely discouraged from contacting the outside world.”

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