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Sina Corp’s traditional Chinese news portal for Taiwan turned dark on August 1, 2022, the same day that access to Weibo’s local service ceased. Photo: Shutterstock

Chinese internet firm Sina, microblogging service Weibo abruptly close Taiwan platforms amid rising geopolitical tensions

  • Sina’s Chinese news portal in Taiwan turned dark on Monday, the same day that access to Weibo’s service on the island ceased
  • The abrupt shutdown reflects heightened tension in cross-strait relations amid US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan
Chinese internet services firm Sina Corp and its microblogging affiliate Weibo have shut down their online platforms in Taiwan, as geopolitical tensions intensify amid US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.

Sina’s Chinese news portal in Taiwan turned dark on Monday. Weibo’s service on the island ceased on the same day, but local users can still access its mainland website.

The decision to stop local services in Taiwan was based on “company strategy”, a Sina representative on the island said. Weibo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

While Sina and Weibo did not disclose Taiwan-specific operating results, both firms have recorded losses from non-China businesses over the past few years. Sina, which was previously a US-listed enterprise, posted losses of US$508 million and US$143 million in 2019 and 2018, respectively. Weibo has reported losses of US$232 million and US$57 million in 2021 and 2020, respectively.

The homepage of Sina Corp’s traditional Chinese news portal for Taiwan. The site went dark on August 1, 2022. Photo: Shutterstock

Sina, which was founded in Beijing in November 1998, introduced a traditional Chinese version of its news portal for Taiwan that same year and established a local Weibo service on the island in 2013. Sina went private in March last year, 21 years after it became the first Chinese internet firm to list on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Launched by Sina in August 2009 and spun off as a separate entity in March 2014, the Twitter-like Weibo service had 582 million monthly active users at the end of March, according to the Nasdaq- and Hong Kong-listed company’s first-quarter financial results. Weibo’s shares closed down 4.89 per cent to US$18.28 on Monday.

The abrupt shutdown of Sina and Weibo’s online platforms in Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province under its one-China principle, reflects heightened tension in cross-strait relations.

Beijing’s reaction if Pelosi goes to Taiwan may be telling

That escalation comes as House Speaker Pelosi is expected to spend the night on the island, CNN quoted an unnamed senior Taiwanese official as saying, and Bloomberg reported that she is expected to meet with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, on Wednesday.
Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island – which Beijing claims and has vowed to take control of, by force if necessary – had been widely speculated to be part of her Asian tour, which started in Singapore on Monday. Pelosi arrived at Taipei’s Songshan Airport on Tuesday evening after her visit to Malaysia. Other stops in her itinerary include South Korea and Japan.
Pelosi’s is the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had said that trip would cross Beijing’s “red line”, as the military held live-fire drills over the weekend off the coast of southeastern Fujian province – directly opposite Taiwan.