China requires released Tibetan political prisoners to carry gov’t issued mobile phone

Representational image.

(, Nov12’21) – The handsets are given free and you don’t need to pay for the services; but you are banned from owning any other mobile phone and will remain monitored at all times. Chinese authorities in Tibet launched this programme around 2014 in order to keep released political prisoners under their constant radar, said the Tibetan Service of Nov 11, citing a former political prisoner in Tibet. The personal mobile phones of families are also said to be required to be registered for the purpose of being implanted with monitoring apps.

The “cell phones issued by the government have tracking devices installed in them that note your location and who you are meeting,” the report quoted the source as saying, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The SIM card used in these phones is directly linked to a government control office, but one does not have to pay for the phone service.,” the source has said.

“If we keep our conversations a certain distance away from our phones, they are quite safe, though.” The source has suggested.

“On my trip to Tibet in 2017, I was able to meet some former political prisoners, and they were all carrying these government-issued cell phones,” the report quoted an exile Tibetan as saying.

This measure is in addition to the fact that Tibetan political prisoners are required to report each week or month to the Chinese police on their movements and activities for one to two years after their release.

Their families are also surveilled. “To keep track of released political prisoners, the Chinese government also monitors their family and friends through their use of their own cell phones and SIM cards, with the government especially registering the SIM cards of Tibetans considered by authorities to be a threat to national security,” the report quoted another source in Tibet as saying.

“My own cell phone was also taken by the Chinese government for registration, and it has now become very difficult for me to receive or share any kind of information,” the source has said.

Pema Gyal, a researcher at London-based Tibet Watch, has said the mobile handset issued to former political prisoners was the Apple iPhone Model 4.


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