China escalates restrictions on online surfing, to punish Communist Party members visiting ‘illegal sites’

Months before the leadership reshuffling in China the Chinese Communist Party has escalated the restriction of online surfing for its members. Curbing the online activities of its 89 million members, the Communist Party has introduced new rules stating that the party cadres will face punishable consequences if they visit ‘illegal websites’ or if they somehow disclose the party or state’s secrets online.

Further intensifying the restrictions the new rules for the public also restricts cadres from registering on social networking sites without the permission of the party. The party propaganda even restricts the members to setup accounts in WeChat group which contains their job information. According to the recently introduced rules, party members could also face punishment with party regulations or national laws if they pass online information which maligns the image of the party or its leadership.

The change in rules comes days before the 19th Party Congress, a meeting of top leaders which will be the halfway point to decide President Xi Jinping’s presumed term in office and even the president has warned military personnel and government officials to stay loyal to him, asserting to continue being in power even after the meeting.

While the Communist ruled country had earlier imposed a ban on the use of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and online news portals like New York Times, it had partially blocked messaging service WhatsApp in July. The Chinese government has also started a crackdown on virtual private networks to stop people from routing their data overseas to avoid the Chinese Firewall.

Reportedly, the government already has the power to track any private one-to-one chats and had also banned several keyword combinations.

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