China’s ‘Great Firewall’ stifles WhatsApp in wake of Liu Xiaobo’s death


Users of WhatsApp in China and security researchers have reported widespread service disruptions amid fears that the popular messaging service may be at least partially blocked by authorities in the world’s most populous country, AP reports:

WhatsApp users in China reported Tuesday on other social media platforms that the app was partly inaccessible unless virtual private network software was used to circumvent China’s censorship apparatus, known colloquially as The Great Firewall…..

Questions over WhatsApp’s status come at a politically fraught time in China. The government is in the midst of preparing for a sensitive party congress while Chinese censors this week revved up a sprawling effort to scrub all mention of Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died Thursday in government custody.

Citizen Lab, a monitoring project at the University of Toronto, said images related to Xiaobo were blocked in private messages, group chats and on WeChat’s Moments feed following his death, The Daily Telegraph adds.

“Chinese social media companies receive greater government pressure around critical or sensitive events,” said Citizen Lab. “Our findings document a significant shift in censorship after Liu Xiaobo’s death.”

Liu was China’s conscience, observers suggest.

“That the Chinese authorities took away Liu’s freedom for articulating this vision, in Charter 08 and articles that he wrote, highlights the cowardice and moral void of this regime. That they allowed prison to ruin his health marks its brutality,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China. “And that they denied his final wish to leave China for medical treatment—in an ultimate assault to Liu’s dignity—lays bare its true face and inhumanity.”

Liu was the co-recipient in abstentia of the National Endowment for Democracy’s 2014 Democracy Award. The Washington-based democracy assistance group “deplored the unconscionable medical neglect” he and his wife, Liu Xia, have suffered since his imprisonment in 2009.

“We can keep Liu Xiaobo’s spirit and ideas alive by reading his extensive body of insightful work, especially Charter 08 and the six essays that were the basis of his unjust conviction. We can share and debate his vision of an alternate future path for China – that is what he would have wanted, not just uncritical acceptance of any idea, even ones he advanced,” writes HRIC’s Hom:

Chinese people can answer Liu Xiaobo’s call – and challenge – to accept and live up to their responsibility as citizens. As he stated so powerfully: “Universal enslavement and inequality are never caused by the ruler’s excessive power or wisdom, but because those who are ruled kneel down.”


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