No religion allowed in short videos and social media webcasts

New, more restrictive regulations came into force this month.

by Lopsang Gurung

Internet is coming to Tibet (from Weibo). But censorship also comes.

President Xi Jinping is obsessed with spiraling social media out of control because censors aren’t quick enough when they take down “dangerous” posts. Everywhere within the borders of the People’s Republic of China, new forms of control are being created and implemented.

However, Tibet is a special case and the authorities believe that even more control is needed here. All residents of China like to use social media platforms that consist mostly of short videos such as Douyin and Kuaishou, whose combined users exceed 900 million. The large number of users makes control and immediate censorship more difficult.

Earlier this May, the Cyberspace Administration of the Tibet Autonomous Region announced that “special rectification work in the field of online live broadcasting and short videos throughout the region” was needed to face unspecified “social threats”. New regulations also came into force this month.

They include a very broad provision allowing authorities to sanction those who broadcast “vulgar” or “kitsch” content, or use “emotional” videos to attract users. It is true that in Tibet as everywhere else, there can be real problems with fraud and pornography related to online short videos. However, broad and vague terminology helps clamp down on anything the authorities may decide they don’t like.

In fact, among countless possibilities for the illegal use of short videos and webcasts, the regulations single out “undermining national religious policies”, “promoting harmful information about religion”, and “spreading xie jiao and superstitions”. feudal”.

There is a clear reference to the National Religion and Internet Regulations that came into effect on March 1, 2022. These regulations declare any reference to religion on the web illegal unless it comes from bodies related to the five permitted religions that have obtained an ad hoc license and submit their content to the government for due diligence. For everyone else, even posting an image of a Buddha statue is now illegal.

The reference to the xie jiao, that is to say to the religious movements prohibited as “heterodox”, would not even have been necessary, since outside the system of licenses the reference to any religion is prohibited. However, the CCP likes to include provisions in its regulations that are broad enough to allow for broader censorship. “Fiefdom superstitions” would suppress practices such as divination and healing that are not part of organized religion, but contrast with the current heavy propaganda for atheism.

The regulations also include a call for whistleblowers, with internet users encouraged to immediately report prohibited content to public safety.