China restricts social media access of dissidents, activists ahead of Winter Olympics 2022

WION Web Team
Beijing Updated: Jan 26, 2022, 10:57 PM(IST)

Beijing 2022 Olympics Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Several academics, human rights activists have claimed that since early December they had been unable to use their accounts entirely and were forced to reregister

Attempting to crack down on dissent ahead of the Winter Olympics, China has reportedly restricted access to messaging and social media apps of several human rights activists and some academics.

News agency AFP spoke to some individuals who had restricted access to their WeChat messaging app accounts in recent weeks.

Eight people claimed that since early December they had been unable to use their accounts entirely and were forced to reregister.

“This storm of shuttering WeChat accounts is too strong and unprecedented,” AFP quoted veteran journalist Gao Yu, whose account had features like group chat messaging permanently disabled for the first time on December 20.

Beijing-based writer Zhang Yihe said her WeChat group chat and Moments functions —similar to Facebook's Wall or Instagram Stories —were restricted on January 8.

Tsinghua University sociology professor Guo Yuhua confirmed her account was permanently blocked the same day, while prominent legal scholar He Weifang said he encountered the same on January 9.

Also read | Ahead of Lunar New Year and Winter Olympics, China vows to 'purge' internet

An expert said that the Chinese government wants to ensure that people don’t point out flaws in a “perfect Winter Olympic Games”.

The government now wants to make sure that people don't cross the line online to poke the facade of a perfect Winter Olympic Games,” Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, told AFP.

The latest restrictions came as the Chinese authorities detained two prominent human-rights activists.

Also read | The year China went rogue on itself: Will crackdowns hamper economic growth?

Free-speech advocate Yang Maodong was formally detained in the southern city of Guangzhou on suspicion of inciting subversion on January 12, two days after his wife died of cancer in the US, the Wall Street Journal reported quoting his sister.

Yang, who writes under the pen name Guo Feixiong, has been blocked from leaving China for the past year.

This is not the first time that China has been clamping down on dissidents ahead of a major event.

In the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing pressured dissidents and activists, though space remained for some critics.

(With inputs from agencies)

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