In its continued effort to control and limit online speech, China has deleted 5,450 Sina Weibo accounts, the Chinese version of Twitter. According to a news report on Global Times this week, the action was taken against “posts that spread harmful information about current politics” on Sina Weibo.
Sina Weibo is one of the biggest social media platforms in China. China is said to have an estimate of 731 million web users and nearly half are active Sina Weibo users. The Chinese government considers “cyber sovereignty” one of its main priorities. As part of its security campaign, new sterner regulations were issued since the 19th National Communist Party Congress in October 2017 depleting the already limited cyberspace.
Web users use Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to “jump” across the Great Firewall and evade government censorship, but the Cyberspace Administration of China ended online anonymity from end of last year, requiring all users to register their real names and identification details. Beginning April this year, China made it mandatory for VPN operators to be licensed by the government. This enables the Communist government to regulate VPN’s operation across border. Earlier this year, new internet regulation and censorship rules were issued for what China calls is to “promote the healthy and orderly development of online community” and to “uphold the socialist core values.”
Besides the usual directives on prohibiting the spread of information on “rumors, pornography and violence,” China also extends tight restrictions on posts that are deemed politically unacceptable or offensive. Beijing has special interest in what is termed as the three T’s: Tibet, Taiwan and Tiananmen.
In Tibet, the intensity of censorship is at another level. News from Tibet is frequently delayed in reaching outside Tibet. On April 2, 2018, around 30 Tibetans, including the village head, were detained from Driru county, Nagchu Prefecture, for protesting a Chinese mining project at their sacred mountain. This news of Driru Tibetans’ mass detention as well as disappearance cases surfaced a month-late. At that time, only nine of the 30 were identified but information on the current status, location and well-being of all the 30 remain unknown to this day due to complete internet shutdown in the region to prevent spread of information on social media.
The government enforcing redundant clampdown on online platforms and blocking “harmful” websites is not uncommon. China was titled the “world’s worst abuser of internet freedom” in 2017 by Freedom House. Last year, China blocked 128,000 websites in its drive to maintain “social stability”. Facebook, Google, Skype and Twitter are blocked in China whereas WhatsApp has faced frequent interruption and occasionally disabled.
– Filed by UN/EU and HR Desk, DIIR –