Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Uncategorized

Here’s How China Is Silencing Coronavirus Critics in the U.S.

Last Thursday, 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. So the 36-year-old data scientist, who lives in Washington, D.C., posted links to a series of articles critical of Chinese…

Here’s How China Is Silencing Coronavirus Critics in the U.S.

Last Thursday, 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.

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.

READ: China arrested a whistleblower who shot viral video of coronavirus corpses in Wuhan

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

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.”

1581527244915-image0

Tencent did not respond to specific questions about its censorship of international users, but sent an emailed statement saying it was “committed to providing a secure and open platform” for all its users.

“While we continue to adhere to this commitment, communications on these platforms are subject to the relevant laws and regulations that apply to the respective platforms on which such communications are being carried out,” the statement said.

As a Chinese company, Tencent is obligated to comply with strict government regulations on what content is allowed to be published on its platform, and it invests heavily in both automated systems for content filtering and human curation. That includes undercover “community leaders” who monitor group chats and report any questionable behavior.

While users in China are used to this type of monitoring, U.S. residents are unaccustomed to having their communication subject to Chinese censorship.

READ: The Chinese doctor who tried to warn the world about coronavirus has died

But that’s exactly what’s happening according to WeChat users VICE News spoke in North Carolina, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Houston, Pennsylvania, Atlanta, and Indiana, as well as many in Canadian cities like Toronto and Ottawa.

“As a U.S. citizen, in the land of freedom, I am still under communist control,” a WeChat user who called herself Xianzi and who lives in Edison, New Jersey, said.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Page 1 of 2
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2020 Tribune Media LLC