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As of March 2018, WeChat has 1 billion monthly active users worldwide. (Picture: Reuters)

Don’t use WeChat for work, says the Communist Youth League

Tencent’s WeChat is often used as a work tool in China

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

China loves WeChat. But now the Communist Youth League says it shouldn’t be used for work.

WeChat, the app that does everything

It’s not the first time we’ve heard something like that. Last year, for instance, Australia’s military put WeChat on a blacklist for security concerns. But there’s a bit of a difference between a foreign military and a state-run group like the Communist Youth League.
In an article titled “Be aware: Using WeChat for work is risky!” the Communist Youth League of China said that government agencies should be wary of using WeChat for work communication, because it may lead to leaks of classified information.

But their reasoning isn’t quite the same as the Australian military. They’re putting the blame not on WeChat itself -- but the people using it.

As of March 2018, WeChat has 1 billion monthly active users worldwide. (Picture: Reuters)

As an example, the Communist Youth League referred to an incident where a newsroom staffer wanted to send a classified government document to his editor on WeChat. But he accidentally tapped on the wrong group and sent it there instead -- so he was fired, and his editor suspended.

Another example involved a leak, where someone forwarded pictures of apparently sensitive documents from a work group into multiple other groups (and even Weibo).

“The leaks happened because people hope they get lucky and and decide to ignore the law,” says the League. They also refer to one article in China’s state secrets law that says it’s illegal to pass around national secrets using “unprotected communication methods”.

That anyone would even think to swap sensitive documents on WeChat shows just how far it’s penetrated into every part of people’s lives. 

Studies have suggested 90% of Chinese professionals use WeChat for work communication. Connecting on WeChat by scanning QR codes is often preferred to exchanging name cards. And people are expected to work at all times -- because everyone is always on WeChat, so you can answer a work message at any time.

It’s led many people to complain that WeChat has blurred the boundary between work and personal life. And it’s growing beyond the workplace too: China’s Education Ministry is now also warning schools to stop giving homework to student on WeChat, saying that it puts more pressure on children and parents.

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.