HK students on WhatsApp not working in China as authorities tighten censorship

Associated Press with additional reporting by Tiffany Choi
Associated Press with additional reporting by Tiffany Choi |

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Whatsapp is coming under party censorship in China.

WhatsApp is suffering from bad connection in China as communist authorities tighten censorship controls ahead of a major ruling party meeting.

Attempts to set up new WhatsApp accounts on some Chinese mobile phones on Tuesday were met with network error messages. Others reported difficulty sending images and video, or not being able to send or receive messages at all.

Chinese authorities are strengthening controls on social media ahead of the party congress next month at which President Xi Jinping is due to be appointed to a second five-year term as leader.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, offers Chinese users more privacy than government-monitored domestic services.

On Monday, regulators fined WeChat’s parent company and two other social media services for failing to fully enforce censorship.

"Such tightening of communication freedom will only cause frustration among netizens as well as resentment people have against China," says Ally Chan, a 16-year-old student Baptist Lui Ming Choi Secondary School whose friend told her of not being able to communicate with her sister who studies in China over WhatsApp over the past few days. Ally says these measures will have more people questioning the Chinese government's motives behind such interference, and will give those who oppose the party more reason to accuse the government of propaganda and controlling the freedom of communication. 

"This hinders the political effectiveness of the Chinese government," Ally says.

Meanwhile, junior reporter Veronica Lin questions where these measures might end.

"Sensitive information is already censored on WeChat, but apparently this is not enough for our leaders," the 18-year-old points out. "At this rate, are they looking to ban WeChat, WhatsApp,  and QQ (as well)."

Edited by Heidi Yeung