Authorities in a Tibetan-populated county of China’s Qinghai province called the managers of social media chat groups together last week to warn them against allowing “inappropriate” online discussions, Tibetan sources said.
The meeting, which was held on Sept. 27 in Malho (in Chinese, Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Tsekhog (Zeku) county, brought together organizers of discussion groups on WeChat, a popular social media platform in Tibetan areas, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“It was aimed at promoting awareness of organizers’ responsibility to ensure the ‘appropriateness’ of certain discussion topics and to keep these from falling outside of local laws and regulations,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Alerted by a summons two days before from county police to attend the meeting, many chat group organizers dismantled their entire groups on their own, fearing punishment for possible infractions, the source said.
Group leaders’ duty to protect China’s “national interest” was also discussed at the meeting, which was attended by Tsekhog county administrators, officials from the county’s propaganda and police departments, and about 248 others, according to RFA's source.
“The meeting ended with WeChat group managers each signing a document pledging them to uphold their responsibilities,” the source said.
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 contacts outside China, Tibetan sources say.
Authorities in China have stepped up nationwide “stability maintenance” measures targeting anyone with a critical opinion of the ruling 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 Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.