Chinese News Website Cites India To Justify China Internet Shutdown

China - whom the US had in March slammed for human rights violations on Muslim minorities - seems to be drawing inspiration from India's tactic of digital isolation

Chinese News Website Cites India To Justify China Internet Shutdown

Internet services in Kashmir have been suspended since August 5

New Delhi:

A Chinese news website has praised the internet ban ordered in multiple Indian states to quell protests against the citizenship law. In an article published on Tuesday the People's Daily Online writes: "India recently ordered a shutdown of the internet in the states... to control protests over the controversial new Citizenship Amendment Bill. It means shutting down internet in a state of emergency should be standard practice for sovereign countries". The article also points to the United States - the "birthplace of the internet" - and said the surveillance, monitoring and deletion of social media accounts were "routine operations".

Since the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, was passed by parliament - exactly one week ago today - massive and violent protests have broken out across the country, starting with Assam and parts of the North East and spreading to Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. In an effort to subdue these protests and stop counter-narratives finding support elsewhere in the country, mobile and internet shutdowns have been ordered.

China - whom the US had in March slammed for human rights violations on Muslim minorities - seems to be drawing inspiration from India's tactic of digital isolation.

The People's Daily article calls the widespread internet shutdown a "necessary regulation" that was a "reasonable choice... based on national interests (or) when there is a significant threat to national security".

Referring to these shutdowns the article also defends a similar decision taken by the Chinese government in its Xinjian area nine years ago after horrific ethnic violence saw 140 people killed.

The internet was shut down then for more than 300 days - from July 2009 to May 2010 - and Xinjiang, which has been scarred by ethnic unrest over the years, has repeatedly suffered under internet blocks.

Claiming to control the flow of "misinformation", a claim not dissimilar to that by Indian state and central government, the Chinese government was trying to stop online conversations in an area dominated by Uighurs, who practice Sunni Islam.

The move was, and continues to be, fiercely criticised by the United States and Europe and, the People's Daily article pointed that out in its article, comparing its actions to those of the Indian government's.

The tactic of blocking the internet to negate dissent is being used by the centre in Jammu and Kashmir, where access to the internet - seen as a basic right in today's digital world - has been denied for more than 130 days. Earlier this week the Washington Post called the shutdown in Kashmir the "longest ever imposed in a democracy".

However, apart from cautious comments by United States lawmakers and a sharp nudge from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR), the issue of internet shutdown in Kashmir - which has also hurt key medical services - has been forgotten by global media.

According to a 2019 report by Freedom House, an independent global watchdog that monitors democracy levels, internet freedom is only "partly free" in India. The report states: "local authorities continue to restrict connectivity routinely" and "users were arrested and detained for social media posts, including journalists and politicians".

China, where internet freedom is a myth, was ranked as the "world's worst abuser of internet freedom", where "censorship and surveillance were pushed to unprecedented extremes... in lead-up to the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and in response to persistent antigovernment protests in Hong Kong".