Authorities in Lhasa crack down on illegal use of satellite dishes

They are confiscating the equipment of Tibetans who access foreign programs.
By Sangyal Kunchok for RFA Tibetan
Authorities in Lhasa crack down on illegal use of satellite dishes Police talk to a Tibetan about his satellite dish during a check of households to ensure residents access only state-sanctions programs, in Lhasa, capital of China's Tibet autonomous Region, June 13, 2023.
TAR Chinese state media

Chinese authorities began searching homes in the Tibetan capital Lhasa this month to determine whether Tibetans are accessing foreign radio and TV programs via satellite dishes, city police and two Tibetans with knowledge of the situation said. 

Broadcast offices in the Tibet Autonomous Region, including in Lhasa, along with police investigated every household on June 8-9 for illegal satellite broadcasts, according to an announcement on the website of the Lhasa police. So far, authorities have confiscated about 50 satellite dishes.

In 2009, the Chinese government provided every household in Lhasa with a government-approved satellite dish, which gave residents access to only a limited number of state-controlled programs.

It is illegal for Tibetans who have access to or watch broadcasting other than state-sanctioned programs via satellite. 

“The satellite dishes in these households were installed by the Chinese government, and the satellite has only access to state-controlled programs, which are very limited,” said a Tibetan living in Lhasa who declined to be identified so as to speak freely.

“Tibetans cannot buy other satellite dishes or pay to watch other channels that have access to other news and information,” the source said. “It is deemed illegal.” 

Authorities say they have taken the measure to ensure harmony and stability in Tibet, and that the investigations will continue.  

But Tibetans see the move as another way that the Chinese government is preventing them from accessing outside information and restricting their communication. 

“This operation is part of a government clampdown on satellite equipment used by Tibetans to tune in to foreign news and programs, and the tracking of Tibetans’ cell phones to monitor their communication with the outside world,” said Pema Gyal, a Tibetan researcher at Tibet Watch, a London-based advocacy and monitoring group.

Before checking private households, authorities in Lhasa clamped down on the use of satellite dishes in hotels and guesthouses, said another Tibetan who declined to be identified for the same reason.

Though the satellite dishes installed by the government show only state-run programs, foreign programs can sometimes be picked up, the source said.

“However, it’s up to the person’s maneuvering skills to do that and to not get caught,” the Tibetan added.  

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.


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