New Internet, Phone Monitoring Scheme for Tibet

As a part of Beijing’s ongoing efforts to exert greater control over the Tibetan regions, Chinese state media announced earlier this week that all telephone and Internet users in Tibet are now registered under their real names. Reuters reports:

By the end of last year, all 2.76 million fixed line and mobile telephone users and 1.47 million internet users in the remote region had registered for services under their real identities, Xinhua news agency said.

The scheme “is conducive to protecting citizens’ personal information and curbing the spread of detrimental information” the report quoted government official Nyima Doje as saying.

[...] China’s announcement of the successful completion of the telephone and internet monitoring program in Tibet comes as Chinese media and the government have expressed indignation at accusations of mass surveillance by the United States. [Source]

The new surveillance system in Tibet, known as the “grid system of social management”, is a system that relies on real-time information gathered by community workers within areas divided into grids. The policy decision was likely triggered by the ongoing wave of protests by self-immolation that intensified a government crackdown on Tibet earlier this year. From The Economist:

Why bother? Lhasa is already crawling with security personnel and festooned with surveillance cameras. Even before the grid system any Tibetan who raised a protest banner would be leapt on within seconds and taken away (though few such attempts have been reported since security was increased after riots in 2008). But, mostly in the last two years, Tibetan protesters have taken to setting themselves on fire, which has made the authorities even edgier. Only two of about 120 of these acts have occurred in Lhasa but the capital’s religious importance to Tibetans makes any dissent there particularly potent.

These two men, who last year set themselves on fire outside Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple, one of the region’s holiest shrines, were the kind of people the grid system aims to track. Both came from outside the capital and are believed to have been working in a Lhasa restaurant. Such migrants are harder to monitor than registered Lhasa residents. Hundreds of Tibetans from areas outside the Tibet Autonomous Region were expelled from the city in the wake of the two immolations, according to Human Rights Watch, a New York-based lobby group. [Source]

Plans for the “grid” surveillance system were first revealed in a report by Human Rights Watch in March.

Elsewhere in China, similar monitoring programs have also been put in place. Following several environmental protests that occurred earlier this year, real-name registration requirements and other restrictions were imposed on the sale of face masks and white t-shirts.

According to Global Times, China’s countless real-name registration policies are causing “real headaches” as most proved to be ineffective and forced to be withdrawn.