Chinese Authorities Close Tibetan Literary Web Site

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June 17, 2002: A policeman inspects an Internet cafe in Beijing. Photo: AFP

HONG KONG—Authorities in the northern Chinese city of Xian have closed a literary Web site run by a Tibetan, apparently for posting “political” content, the editor said.

The site, known as “The Lamp,” claimed some 800 registered forum users. It was closed July 4 by Internet police in the city, the editor told RFA’s Tibetan service.

“When we called the [service provider], they thought perhaps it was due to the detection of political content by the Chinese Internet police,” the editor said, adding that the Chinese service provider was unsure of the reasons for closure.

An official who answered the phone at the state-owned Xian Technology Ltd, a company that sells and distributes Web sites, declined to comment on the case.

The site, which comprised a main Web site, weblog, and discussion forum, employed the editor, a technician, and an administrative assistant, the editor said.

The sudden closure of this Web site has disappointed many young Tibetan readers. Many have already expressed their disappointment...

One contributor to the site said its closure had distressed the Tibetan community it served.

“The sudden closure of this Web site has disappointed many young Tibetan readers. Many have already expressed their disappointment on another Web site called ‘Tibetan Language.’ Several college students called and informed me how they miss our Web site,” he said.

Another site closed

“Usually the Chinese authorities are very suspicious of Tibetan Web sites. They suspect political activities when we run Web sites in Tibetan. They think that Tibetans inside and outside China use these forums for separatist actions.”

The editor said another Tibetan-language site he edited, “China's Tibetan Residential Education Network,” was closed at the same time.

“The Chinese government issued rules on July 1 requiring …the name of an author [to appear] at the end of each article posted on a Web site. If the Web site contains articles on sensitive topics, the Web site or the author could be fined 4,000-60,000 yuan (U.S. $526-U.S. $7,893),” he said.

“The topics specified were writings on security, unity of the nation, ethnic unrest, writings against the Constitution and … unity of nationalities,” the editor said.

Political debate in China over the registration and disclosure of authors’ real names on content posted in Chinese cyberspace has continued for more than two years.

The country’s Web watchdog, the Internet Society of China, has published a suggested “self-discipline” code encouraging bloggers and online authors to reveal their true names.

But the move has drawn criticism from some of the biggest Internet service providers, who say anonymity is one of the attractions of blogging and forum participation, and who fear losing large numbers of Chinese customers to overseas service providers.

Detentions reported

According to the Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), at least 30 journalists and 50 Internet users are currently detained in China, some of them since the 1980s.

“The government blocks access to thousands of news Web sites. It jams the Chinese-, Tibetan-, and Uyghur-language programs of 10 international radio stations. After focusing on Web sites and chat forums, the authorities are now concentrating on blogs and video-sharing sites,” RSF said in a statement on its Web site.

Chinese Internet users who do not use proxy servers are blocked from searching with keywords considered subversive by the country’s Internet police.

Critics are frequently sentenced to jail terms for “divulging state secrets,” “subversion,” and “defamation.”

Original reporting by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated and edited by Karma Dorjee. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie, and edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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