WeChat users in the US say the app is censoring their messages about Hong Kong

Advertisement
WeChat users in the US say the app is censoring their messages about Hong Kong

hong kong protests

Kyodo News via Getty Images

A demonstrator throws a petrol bomb at police near the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Kowloon district on November 18, 2019.

  • Chinese-Americans using the Chinese app WeChat say they are being censored for writing messages in support of Hong Kong.
  • WeChat is ubiquitous in China, so for Chinese Americans with family there it is a major blow to be kicked off the app.
  • This is the latest in a pattern of Chinese censorship extending into the US.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Chinese-American users of the messaging app WeChat are finding their messages containing political criticism of China - particularly those aimed at the protests in Hong Kong - are being censored, The Verge reports.

In one instance an American information security analyst called Bin Xie had his account taken down after writing "The pro-China candidates totally lost" about Hong Kong's recent election, in which pro-democracy candidates gained huge ground against pro-China candidates.

Advertisement

"If you have censorship in China, fine... But in this country? I'm a Republican but on WeChat I suffer the same as Democrats [using WeChat], we are all censored," he told The Verge.

Xie then joined a WhatsApp group full of Chinese-Americans who had similarly been kicked off WeChat for expressing political views.

For Chinese Americans with family in China, being kicked off WeChat is a major problem. The WeChat app is more or less ubiquitous in China, where it covers an extremely broad range of uses. It acts as a messaging app, a dominant payment platform, a social network, and a platform for accomplishing everyday tasks like paying utility bills and booking doctor's appointments. WeChat and rival Alipay's payment systems have become so everyday that even street vendors and buskers use QR codes rather than accept cash.

Advertisement

Losing access to the app is a major hindrance to anyone wishing to contact Chinese relatives - as popular Western messaging apps like Facebook and WhatsApp are blocked in China - and for anyone who wants to visit the country.

The Verge notes that while generally WeChat applies different censorship rules to Chinese nationals and foreigners, Chinese Americans may fall through the net if they have once possessed a Chinese phone number.

WeChat's parent company Tencent was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.

Advertisement

The extension of Chinese censorship laws beyond its borders has become more pertinent to American citizens in recent months through three high-profile news stories.

{{}}