Tibetan Netizens Confront Douyin’s Ban on Tibetan Language

By Tsering Choephel

China’s high restrictions on the Tibetan language in Douyin stirs controversy; Tibetan netizens challenge the app’s authority on national law and freedom of expression. Image: Screenshot.

DHARAMSALA, 8 July: The high restrictions on the use of the Tibetan language on Douyin, China’s most popular short video app, have sparked questions and criticisms from Tibetan netizens. One Tibetan, Youga Ga, queried, “I question whether Douyin holds more power and authority than the nation and the legal system. Is Douyin more powerful than the state? What is the reality here?” in a video online a week ago. Another Tibetan netizen, in a video circulating online since Sunday, supported Youga’s accusation after his livestream too was stopped for using Tibetan.

Despite China’s constitution proclaiming protection for cultural preservation and language promotion for all, the Tibetan language faces significant challenges under Xi’s sinicization policies, which aggressively promote the concept of ‘Chinese national unity,’ aiming to integrate minority nationalities forcefully into the larger Han Chinese population of 1.4 billion.

According to a New York Times report in April, Douyin company “teamed up with 11 government departments and media organisations to help improve content production to make their videos more effective at carrying their messages.” One of Beijing’s covert goals, overtly practised, is to restrict, limit, and sinicize Tibetan languages, as revealed in various reports from international rights groups.

In the Douyin video, the Chinese version of TikTok, Youga challenges, “Why is Douyin prohibiting the use of the Tibetan language, our own language? This is a fundamental question that needs addressing. It is said that the country must promote the language of its people, so how do we promote our Tibetan language? Should we only speak it in our villages? Through local authorities and governmental agencies, the state has invested substantial resources in supporting online businesses and implementing regulations. Are these entities not more powerful than Douyin? What is the rationale behind Douyin Company banning our language? Aren’t all ethnicities supposed to be equal? Why, then, restrict our use of the Tibetan language?”

Furthermore, Youga explores legal options to challenge Douyin’s actions and demands immediate clarification. “I implore the state to seriously consider this matter, especially since substantial state funding is dedicated to improving people’s lives. Why then restrict our language? If this ban continues, many who depend on Douyin for their livelihood will pool money to take legal action against Douyin, regardless of state policy. I request that authorities address this issue, as the ban on the Tibetan language also affects citizens’ livelihoods, whether it be online trading or counselling. What is the rationale behind such a ban? I urgently need a clear answer.”

In April this year, Luktsang Palyon, a popular Tibetan-language blog in Tibet founded in 2013, was shut down by the Chinese government for alleged copyright infringement. In 2022, the language-learning app Talkmate and video-streaming service Bilibili removed Tibetan and Uyghur languages from their sites under Chinese authority orders. Also in the same year, creators of the popular Tibetan-language video-sharing app GangYang were abruptly shut down, citing financial reasons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *