As Chinese tech companies have gone global, so has China’s ability to censor communications outside of the mainland.
With the coronavirus death toll hurtling past 500 and no sign of new infections slowing down, Mr. Yan decided he wanted to share his anger at the government’s botched response to the outbreak last Thursday.
So the 36-year-old data scientist, who lives in Washington, D.C., posted links to a series of articles critical of Chinese President Xi Jinping to a WeChat group with about 22 other people.
At first, everything appeared to be normal, but then Yan realized that his friends in China were not seeing any of his posts. Only the two other U.S.-based group members and one in the Philippines had seen what he posted.
“I have never received any notice from WeChat about being blocked. And thus there is no way for me to appeal. I have sent messages to WeChat Help but there hasn’t been any responses,” said Yan, who is a green card holder living in the U.S. “Technically, they did not cover my mouth but covered my friends’ and relatives’ ears when I speak.”
Yan’s case is not isolated. VICE News spoke to dozens of WeChat users in the U.S. and Canada, as well as some users in the U.K., France, Spain, Australia, Germany, and Malaysia, who reported identical problems with their accounts as they tried to share information with their family and friends in China.
The restrictions prevent international users from sending information to contacts in China, and in some cases they have also had their accounts suspended or blocked completely and accused of “spreading malicious rumors.” In many cases, the censorship means their only communication link to people inside China has been cut off completely.
For decades China has sought to strictly control what people can say and see online by tightly regulating any company that operates in China. But as Chinese companies have gone global, so has China’s ability to censor communications outside of the mainland.
WeChat is a unit of Tencent, one of China’s largest tech companies, which also happens to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Now users in the U.S. are calling for Congress to intervene.
“I came to the U.S. for freedom. I thought I escaped from the threat of the Communist Party. But I’m wrong.”
“Tencent is the evil helper of a totalitarian government that suppresses freedom of speech and democracy,” one WeChat user who lives in Philadelphia and wanted to remain anonymous due to fears of retribution, told VICE News. “They delete or block your posts if they think it promotes democracy and challenges the government. It violates my civil rights as a U.S. citizen. I came to the U.S. for freedom. I thought I escaped from the threat of the Communist Party. But I’m wrong, I still live in terror because Tencent is monitoring my WeChat and may report me to the Chinese authorities.”…[ ]
The post Here’s How China Is Silencing Coronavirus Critics in the U.S. appeared first on NewsCetera.
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