Tibetans in exile are facing difficulties in staying in contact with family in Tibet.
On 29 June, India banned 59 Chinese apps including TikTok and WeChat. India cited growing Chinese aggression amidst a border stand-off and legitimate concern for the security of information and data.
WeChat is one of the most popular Chinese apps among Tibetans in India, and it has become vital for information sharing and keeping in touch with their family members back in Tibet. The recent ban of WeChat in India has, therefore,had an adverse impact on communication between Tibetans in Tibet and the outside world s. This is exacerbated by other social media platforms, such as Facebook, being blocked in China and thus blocked in Tibet.
In the last few days, approximately more than hundreds of thousands Tibetan WeChat users have reported their account as blocked.
One such user confided that this will prevent him from contacting his family in Tibet. He admitted that after fifteen years of no communication with his family in Tibet, he was able to regain contact through WeChat for the last eight years. This is even despite the strict surveillance the CCP imposes upon Tibetans in Tibet.
The WeChat ban has also made the transfer of money between family members in Tibet and those in exile difficult, as the red packet feature in the application provides an easy way of transferring money.
Since April, China has been tracking Tibetans in Tibet who are in close contact with Tibetans in exile in an attempt to close the flow of information to the outside world. Such actions are likely due to an increase of a global focus on China and the CCP’s human rights record following the COVID-19 pandemic, which originally broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan. This ban on WeChat is forecasted to pose a further hindrance to the vital flow of information of news from Tibet, particularly news related to any CCP human rights violations, and the implementation of various CCP policies which will affect Tibetans in Tibet.
In the official press statement, the government of India cited these applications are engaged in the activities that are "prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order.”
The ban has been imposed under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009.