China shuts down a popular blog with over 10,000 cultural and literary contents on Tibet

Chinese authorities from WeChat indiscriminately took down a Tibetan-language blog, The Great Sheepfold (Lugtsang Palyon), on April 2, 2024. Photo: TPI

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Dharamshala –Chinese authorities from WeChat company have indiscriminately shut down the "Great Sheep-fold," a popular blog in the Tibetan language on WeChat, which contained over 10,000 pieces directly related to the cultural heritage and humanistic literature of Tibet.

Developed by Tencent and first released in 2011, WeChat, also known as Weixin, is a Chinese instant messaging, social media, and mobile payment app, ironically claimed to be friendly to all so-called "ethnicities" and has become the country's largest mobile app, with over one billion monthly active users. Ma Huateng, Chairman of the company headquartered in Shenzhen, is also a former Deputy of the Chinese National People’s Congress, the highest organ of state power of the People's Republic of China.

According to a notice from Tenzin Yeshe, the founder of the 'Great Sheepfold' blog, dated April 2, 2024, they previously received a notification from WeChat warning of breaching regulations and copyrights. However, this time, the blog has been shut down completely by a direct order of the Chinese WeChat officials, and all articles on the site were inaccessible.

The notice stated, "After 4060 days of hard work, we have published over 10,000 articles for 4060 days (nearly 11 years and a month). We previously received notification from Wechat officials in the form of a warning, as we were unable to make the changes officials had ordered us to make."

"We have been informed that the WeChat official account was blocked by WeChat authorities on 2nd April 2024," he stated, adding: Given the substantial number of existing articles on the website, and considering the numerous copyright disputes among the previously pushed articles, as well as prior warnings from WeChat officials, we are unable to individually verify and adjust according to WeChat's rectification requirements, a predicament which, unfortunately, led to the violation of WeChat's relevant copyright regulations.

"Consequently, this violates WeChat's relevant copyright regulations," continued the founder, saying: Due to the recent complaints received regarding the originality and copyright regulations of WeChat public account articles, the platform has taken corresponding rectification measures and deletions, a move indicative of its commitment to upholding copyright integrity.

"In order to restore the reputation and account value of the Great Sheep-fold"," Yeshe added, "we will initiate an account appeal process based on WeChat's appeal channel and corresponding reasons for appeal in the near future." "If the appeal is successful and the account is restored, strict adherence to the original rights of every creator will be enforced. However, if the account cannot be reinstated, given the plethora of high-quality Tibetan platforms available today, full acceptance of WeChat's handling results is assured."

"We kindly ask everyone not to speculate on the fate of the account arbitrarily," urged the blog, emphasising the need to avoid excessive interpretations of the matter. "As an account entity that has always advocated for the protection of copyright and the value of originality," expressed the blog, "we understand the significant importance of copyright to user creators." Therefore, a fervent plea was made to all account entities to actively fulfill their obligations to protect originality and copyright, and not to repeat the mistakes of online platforms.

"As beneficiaries of the account," the spokesperson expressed with gratitude, "we are deeply grateful to the WeChat public platform for providing us with valuable opportunities to disseminate Tibetan culture over the past 11 years and 25 days." Additionally, Yeshe, on behalf of the blog, has extended their heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to all subscribers and fellow readers for their unwavering support to the blog website platform throughout its 11-year tenure.

Due to the lack of comprehensive justification for the closure offered by the Chinese authorities of the Tencent company, the shutdown of a prominent Tibetan-language blog is perceived by Tibetans as a renewed assault on the Tibetan language, aimed at the obliteration of Tibetan cultural heritage and linguistic identity. This sentiment is compounded by the fact that the popular blog consistently drew not only Tibetan readers but also numerous Tibetan writers, both from within and outside Tibet, who contributed their works to the platform, a Tibetan man told TPI, seeking to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

In recent years, the Chinese government has implemented a stringent and oppressive policy targeting Tibetan cultural heritage, spiritual practices, and linguistic literature, with the explicit aim of obliterating the Tibetan language and identity, executed through various sociopolitical labels and tools, including the cessation of Tibetan language instruction in Tibetan schools, the closure of many Tibetan language educational schools and institutions, the compulsory enrolment of Tibetan children in Chinese-language boarding schools, the apprehension and incarceration of educated Tibetan intellectuals, and the systematic shutdown of Tibetan language online platforms and blogs, according an emerging source.

Chinese authorities closed down the Tibetan-language platform, which contained both a blog and a channel, named "The Great Sheep-fold" (Tibetan: Lugtsang Palyon), on April 2, 2024, according to an emerging source from Tibet. According to its introduction, the website's readership comprises approximately 10% of the population of Tibet, predominantly consisting of individuals with advanced studies in Tibetan literature and a profound commitment to the preservation of the Tibetan language.

"I used to read articles on 'Lugtsang Palyon' during my studies; these articles helped me to improve my Tibetan language. I felt very sad to hear that the blog has been closed down by the Chinese government. There aren't many blogs I can read from Tibet now; even if there are articles written in Tibetan, they are all related to Chinese propaganda or news. They are no longer interesting to read," a Tibetan living in exile told TPI in response to the closure.