WeChat U.S. ban cuts off users link to families in China

By Krystal Hu (Reuters) - President Donald Trump’s ban on transactions using popular Chinese messaging app WeChat will cut ties to families and friends in China, millions of users in the U.S. fear, as they become the latest casualties in the standoff between the two nations. WeChat, owned by Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd , is popular among Chinese students, expats and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.

Reuters August 08, 2020 03:05:41 IST
WeChat U.S. ban cuts off users link to families in China

WeChat US ban cuts off users link to families in China

By Krystal Hu

(Reuters) - President Donald Trump’s ban on transactions using popular Chinese messaging app WeChat will cut ties to families and friends in China, millions of users in the U.S. fear, as they become the latest casualties in the standoff between the two nations.

WeChat, owned by Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd <0700.HK>, is popular among Chinese students, expats and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China. Most popular messaging apps in the U.S., including Facebook Messenger , Whatsapp and Telegram have been blocked in China.

“I came to the U.S. for free access to information. I feel I’m targeted by Trump," said Tingru Nan, a Chinese graduate student at the University of Delaware. "I’m living in constant fear now thinking I might get disconnected with friends and families.”

The ban will cut off far more than the up to 6 million Chinese people who live in the United States. In the past three months, WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the U.S., according to analytics firms Apptopia.

Expats, who are adept at working around oppressive firewalls in their home country, are preparing backup plans while in America.

Some WeChat users have started to share backup contacts for a limited number of apps that are still available in China, including Microsoft Corp's Skype and LinkedIn. Others plan to do what they do at home to get around the "Great Firewall," as the blockade of foreign apps in China is known, by using virtual private networks (VPN) that mask a user's identity on a public network.

Allison Chan, a Chinese-American in Florida, uses a VPN every time she visits China to access U.S. sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter, which have been blocked by the Chinese government.

"After the 45-day period is up, I'll experiment with it and see if we can still use WeChat," Chan said.

She said WeChat has been a major tool for her and her parents to communicate with her grandparents in China.

"I understood the argument about security, but for me, it was more about how I'm going to talk to my family," Chan said. “My parents worried about my grandparents because their health has been declining and they want to get constant updates about them."

Some Chinese expats in the U.S. worry that this is only the latest salvo in a worsening U.S.-China relationship.

“My parents are more worried than me when they saw the news,” said Yun Li, a UX designer in Boston who is from Guangdong, China. “They also asked me to seriously consider moving back to China given the current political environment,” she added.

(Reporting by Krystal Hu; additional reporting by Echo Wang; Editing by Ken Li and Leslie Adler)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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