(TibetanReview.net, Jun30’20) – Tibetan activists and groups have long campaigned to get fellow-Tibetans to boycott the popular Chinese social media app WeChat because it is monitored and censored by the Chinese government, resulting in many in Tibet being persecuted. But its popularity continued among exile Tibetans because there was little alternative to it for them to keep in touch with families and friends in Chinese ruled Tibet.
But now, WeChat is one of the 59 popular Chinese apps that have been banned by the government of India by a notification on Jun 29 on national security grounds.
Other Chinese apps that are highly popular in India and banned by the government order include TikTok, UC Browser, file sharing app ShareIt, and CamScanner, which allows iOS and Android devices to be used as image and document scanners.
The ban has been imposed under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (“Power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource”), which says: “Where the Central Government or any of its officers specially authorised by it… is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above, it may… by order, direct any agency of the Government or intermediary to block for access by the public or cause to be blocked for access by the public any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource.”
The indianexpress.com Jun 30 quoted India’s Ministry of Information and Technology as saying it “has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps… for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have locations outside India”.
Since this “ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, (it) is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures”, the ministry was quoted as saying.
The notification of the ban is expected to be followed by instructions to Internet service providers to block these apps. Users are likely to soon see a message saying access to the apps has been restricted on the request of the government.
Some apps on the banned list are very popular in India, especially TikTok, which has over 100 million active users in the country, mainly in the heartland, the report noted.
In fact, India is the biggest driver of the TikTok app and the ban is expected to be a big stumbling block for its owner Bytedance, which had plans to invest $1 billion in the country, noted ndtv.com Jun 30.
Whether the ban will be permanent remain an open question, coming as it does in the background of the ongoing dispute and confrontations between India and China in the Ladakh border region where 20 Indian soldier died in a Jun 15 night attack by a large body of Chinese troops armed with deadly improvised weapons.
In the meanwhile, the companies behind the apps have been invited to offer clarifications before a government panel, which will decide whether the ban can be removed or will stay, said the ndtv.com report.
China has said Jun 30 that it was concerned about India’s decision and was making checks to verify the situation. Reuters cited Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian as telling reporters during a daily briefing that India had a responsibility to uphold the rights of Chinese businesses.
There have been calls for banning Chinese businesses, which reportedly export goods worth nearly $60 billion to India, in the backdrop of the ongoing Ladakh standoff, said the ndtv.com report.