As Internet shutdown in Assam continues for the eighth day following violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and in several other places in India, China on Wednesday cited India as an example to defend the Xi Jinping government's restrictions on usage of internet among its citizens in mainland China.
The People’s Daily Online, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, published an editorial which argues that shutdown of the internet should be “standard practice in a state of emergency” while quoting India’s example.
China offers heavily censored internet services in mainland China with a complete ban on several of the international social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, along with search engine Google, video platform YouTube and social messaging platform WhatsApp.
In India, while mobile internet and broadband services in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir have been suspended since 5 August (136 days) — except a few targetted places — when the Central government abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir, mobile internet services have been suspended in the northeastern Assam since 11 December following protests against the new citizenship law, which grants citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants coming from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh without requiring to provide any documents.
Though broadband internet services were restored in Assam on Tuesday, the government had refused to restore mobile internet services.
The state of Meghalaya, too, continues to be under a similar internet clampdown. Internet services were also suspended in the Malda, Murshidabad, Howrah, North 24 Parganas and parts of South 24 Parganas districts of West Bengal on Sunday and Monday to “prevent rumour-mongering and circulation of fake news".
In Uttar Pradesh’s Aligarh, where students and teachers of the Aligarh Muslim University had planned protest marches demanding the withdrawal of the amendments to the citizenship Act, shutting down the Internet was one of the preventive measures adopted by the district administration on 13 December.
Even before the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 was passed by the Rajya Sabha, internet and SMS services were suspended in the northeastern state of Tripura.
The article on People' Daily Online while noting the current clampdown of internet services in some parts of India, slammed the western countries, mostly the US, for condemning China for implementing a similar clampdown on internet services in its Xinjiang province.
"Since the 1950s, America has seen India as an example of democracy in Asia," it says.
"India did not hesitate to shut down the internet in these two states to cope when there is a significant threat to national security. When China's Xinjiang region faced a similar national security threat a few years ago, the Chinese government responded with a similar strategy. However, it attracted sharp criticism from mainstream media in Europe and the US, "notes the article.
"The internet shutdown in India has once again proved that the necessary regulation of the internet is a reasonable choice of sovereign countries based on national interests, and a natural extension of national sovereignty in cyberspace," the article argues, seemingly in defence of China's checkered history with censorship and clampdown on internet freedom.
According to Indian Today, data prepared by slfc.in and internetshutdowns.com shows a total of 357 instances of Internet shutdowns in India since 2014. "Terror activities and communal tensions have been the biggest contributors to suspension of services," the report said.
In November, China was ranked as the worst abuser of internet freedom for the fourth consecutive year in 2019 by the internet watchdog, Freedom House. China with an overall score of 10 was adjudged ‘not free’ while the internet in India was reported to be ‘partly free’. India had scored 55 in the report.
China has banned the use of non-Chinese sites as well and has also recently taken to actively monitoring the usage of Twitter — accessed by users via secured VPN networks — in the country.
A report in the Washington Post in January said that internet monitors and activists have recorded at least 40 cases of Chinese authorities pressuring users to delete tweets.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Dec 18, 2019 19:03:52 IST