China Communist Party members face tighter curbs on internet use
Crackdown on visits to ‘illegal websites’ or release of secrets comes ahead of party congress later this year
China’s Communist Party is curbing the online activities of its 89 million members ahead of a leadership shake-up later this year.
The new rules made public on Tuesday said that all party cadres faced punishment if they visited “illegal websites” or disclosed party and state secrets online.
Cadres need permission from the party before registering social media accounts or setting up a WeChat group that contains their job information, the party’s personnel, propaganda and cyber watchdog said.
Members could also face punishment – either under the party’s rules or the national law – for passing information online that damages the image of the party and the leadership.
The new measures follow a surge in restrictions on free expression ahead of the 19th party congress, a meeting of the senior leadership that will mark the halfway point for President Xi Jinping’s presumed term in office. The president has recently warned military and government officials to stay loyal.
China already blocks access to Twitter, Facebook and news websites such as The New York Times. Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service was partially blocked in China in July, and the government has also begun cracking down on virtual private networks – technology that allows users to route their data overseas to get around the Beijing’s internet firewall.
The Chinese authorities already have the power to censor images and conversations held in private one-on-one chats on WeChat, a service provided by Tencent Holdings, that has more than 768 million daily active users.
The number of banned keyword combinations greatly increased on WeChat and other social media platforms, according to a report published by Citizen Lab in July.