Authorities in a Tibetan prefecture of northwestern China’s Qinghai province summoned the heads of local Buddhist monasteries last week to warn against the use of social media to view or spread “illegal content” while top-level Party meetings are held in Beijing in October, sources say.
The gathering, which was held from Sept. 14 to 18 in Tsolho (in Chinese, Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Trika (Guide) county, brought together the leaders of “all Tibetan monasteries, both large and small, in Tsolho,” a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Authorities explained that the meeting was being conducted on the orders of higher authorities to tell the prefecture’s monks and nuns that they must not use social media to listen to, or to view and share photos and video clips of, illegal material during the period of the 19th Congress of the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Severe consequences” were threatened for anyone found violating the ban or enticing others to do so, the source said the assembled monks were told.
Protests challenging Chinese rule by Tibetans living in western Chinese provinces have brought a clampdown by authorities on internet communications, with police regularly monitoring social media sites for evidence of news-sharing with media contacts outside China, Tibetan sources say.
“During the meeting, the officials emphasized the importance of expressing loyalty to the Chinese government and the Communist Party of China,” RFA’s source said, adding that one official cited the case of a monk in Tsolho’s Mangra (Guinan) county who had been caught viewing banned material and been jailed for three years.
“He also noted that ten Han Chinese nationals are currently being investigated for listening to and distributing illegal political material and could be sentenced at any time now for not obeying the rules,” he said.
Authorities in China have stepped up nationwide "stability maintenance" measures targeting anyone with a critical opinion of the Chinese Communist Party or Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of the Party’s 19th Congress, which will be held in Beijing from Oct.18 to 28.
Among other moves, authorities have banned travel to Tibet from outside the politically sensitive region while the top-level meetings are held, sources say.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.