While China has repeatedly rejected the Dalai Lama’s proposal for ‘genuine autonomy’ for a Tibet within the Chinese state, China’s state controlled television and radio in Tibet surprised visitors to its newly launched website with a music video of the Tibetan national anthem. The song, called ‘Gyalu’ in Tibetan is sung by exile Tibetans across the world but has traditionally been banned in Tibet for over 50 years.
The national anthem video plays on the app download page of the state broadcaster’s website http://www.vtibet.com/tb/download/
.(The music video of the Tibetan national anthem was deleted from the site at approximately 9:30am Thursday Tibet time.) The launch of the new app on October 29, 2013 was touted in state media with photographs of Meng Xiao Ling, the party propaganda deputy chief of the Tibet Autonomous Region inspecting it and apparently giving it the green light.
This comes at an especially tense period in Tibet when the communist party's top-ranking official in the region, Chen Quanguo, in an editorial published in the party journal, Qiushi, vowed to "ensure that the voices of hostile forces and the Dalai group are not seen or heard."
Chen referred to the new crackdown on information access in Tibet as a “drawing of the sword”, a phrase also used recently by Chinese President Xi Jinping, and added, "Strike hard against the reactionary propaganda of the splittists from entering Tibet."
The fierce rhetoric of the Chinese official, the highest authority in Tibet, coming at the same time as the banned Tibetan national anthem on state controlled media is certain to create confusion and fear amongst Tibetans who have in the past been arrested and handed prison sentences for possessing songs on their phones that didn’t meet with the approval of the Chinese government.
Since playing the Tibetan national anthem is normally a criminal offence, the question vexing the thousands of Tibetans who may have visited the website’s app download page is whether they will be tracked down through their computers and smartphones and punished for listening to the song.
In recent days, China has announced plans to tighten the already heavily controlled and monitored media environment in Tibetan regions by confiscating satellite dishes, increasing monitoring of online content and making sure all telephone and internet users are registered using their real names. The government has promised to step up propaganda including on government controlled Tibetan news portals and ensure that prime air time TV and radio, as well as newspapers would ”propagate stable and good lives under the Communist Party rule.”
While it is not known how these new measures to crackdown in Tibet will impact China’s ongoing bid for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, they are certain to fuel further debate against the bid from countries and organizations who argue that doing so would erode the credibility of the council.
Tensions between Tibetans and the Chinese government have been high since 2009, with more than 120 Tibetans setting themselves on fire in protest of Chinese rule, leading to security crackdowns across the Tibetan plateau.