Rongbin Han, assistant professor of international affairs in the School of Public and International Affairs, was quoted in Inkstone about WeChat, the popular Chinese app.
With about 500 million users in China, WeChat connects users to everyday life. People talk one-on-one or in small group chats, and many use the app to make mobile payments. However, the app is now shutting down individual accounts for seemingly mundane political discussions. The WeChat accounts have been permanently revoked with no warning before and no explanation after, except a vague accusation of “spreading malignant rumors.”
“WeChat is like a semi-private place,” said Han, author of Contesting Cyberspace in China: Online Expression and Authoritarian Resilience.“In the past, we knew there had always been censorship, but we felt we could still say things in private. Now, the control is penetrating deeper. That kind of experience also politicizes people by letting them learn about the state. They previously thought that only political activists were punished: now they are also punished. But as individuals, they are also powerless. What they can do is very little.”