WeChat ban cuts off US users link to families in China

Tencent WeChat

President Trump’s ban on transactions using popular Chinese messaging app WeChat will cut ties to families and friends in China, millions of consumers in the United States fear, as they become the latest casualties in the standoff between the two states.

WeChat, owned by Chinese net giant Tencent, is popular among Chinese students, expats and a few Americans who have private or business relationships in China. Most popular messaging programs in the United States, such as Facebook Messenger , WhatsApp and Telegram have been blocked in China.

“I came to the US 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 reside in the United States. In the past 3 months, WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, according to companies Apptopia.

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

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Some WeChat users have started to share backup contacts for a limited number of programs which are still available in China, such as Microsoft Corp’s Skype and LinkedIn.

Others plan to do exactly what they do at home to get around the “Great Firewall,” since the blockade of foreign programs in China is known, by using virtual private networks (VPN) that mask a user’s identity on a public network.

I’ve never imagined that I need to do similar things in the US,” said Tao Lei, a Philadelphia-based tech worker.

Allison Chan, a Chinese-American in Florida, uses a VPN whenever she visits China to access US 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 tool for her and her parents to speak 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 are worried about my grandparents because their health has been declining and they want to get constant updates about them.”

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

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

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed the ‘WeChat ban cuts off US users link to families in China‘ article. Initial reporting via our content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Krystal Hu. Additional reporting by Echo Wang. Editing by Ken Li, Leslie Adler and Marguerita Choy.

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