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CHINA IMPOSES SELF RESTRICTION ON WeChat GROUPS


China is finding it difficult to control the dissidence on its Government controlled Social Media Platform called WeChat, equivalent of WhatsApp, having 662 million Chinese mobile users. Tencent’s WeChat, evolved from instant messaging to become true social networks of China by adding news feeds, photo sharing and other services. Anyone can create a group, usually of as many as 500 people, to share pictures, voice chats and links to websites.

There have been instances where the users had openly displayed their anguish on policies of Chinese Government. Recently Wu Rongrong an activist of “Feminist Five” was arrested and detained for a month by Beijing police over a Social Media Campaign against sexual harassment. The case triggered an international outcry and was seen as part of a widening campaign by the Chinese government to squash civil society in Social Media particularly WeChat.

To curb the growing tendency Chinese Regulators made creators of online groups responsible for managing information within their forums and the behaviour of members. While these regulations don’t take effect until October, authorities have jumped into action by disciplining 40 people in one group for spreading petition letters while arresting a man who complained about police raids, according to reports in official Chinese media.

Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, went through similar tightening a few years ago when users were required to reveal their real identities and opinion leaders were arrested for comments. Qiao Mu, a former journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University who recently migrated to the US, had four personal WeChat accounts and 16 public ones deleted without his consent.

“Wechat groups scared the Communist party because it’s the simplest way to mobilise and organise a group of people,” Qiao said. “The new rule is an upgrade, as they want to hush people and enforce self-censorship. They want to avoid mass incidents and prevent crises before they emerge.” Chinese authorities are coming down very heavily on the users expressing opinion against the government especially before the 19th National Congress of Communist Party of China, being held in October this year.

 

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