The creator of a popular Tibetan language video-sharing app abruptly announced on Thursday he was shutting it down for financial reasons, a source inside the Tibetan Autonomous Region said.
But a group advocating for greater rights for Tibetans said it was more likely that the Chinese government ordered the app’s closure because it has ratcheted up efforts to restrict Tibetans from using their own language.
The GangYang app is a short-video social media platform that can be used to record videos, livestream and shop online. Chinese authorities granted permission for Tibetans living inside the far-western region to create a social media app in their own language, and GangYang was launched in about 2018 as a legally registered social media app.
The app was very popular, partly because all the function keys were in the Tibetan language, said the source, who declined to be named for safety reasons.
“Despite the significance of such a Tibetan app that caters to the Tibetan community, due to growing expenses in order to keep up with the app, I have no choice but to close the GangYang App,” the notice of closure said, according to the source.
The Chinese government’s restrictions on use of the Tibetan language have spread to video services and other online platforms, as Beijing continues to push for the assimilation of China’s ethnic minorities, including Tibetans, into the dominant Han Chinese culture, RFA reported in March.
“The notification also thanked every user for supporting the app all the while and encouraged everyone to preserve the Tibetan language,” the source said.
Pema Gyal, a researcher at London-based Tibet Watch said he believed that the Chinese government played a role.
“Since the social media platforms that entertain the Tibetan language have become major platforms for Tibetans to communicate among themselves, Chinese authorities are retracting the Tibetan language from these social media platforms,” Gyal said.