BEIJING – Smartphone users in China have reportedly been unable to access the WhatsApp Messenger, an instant-messaging application, in recent days, which appears to be a new censorship measure ahead of the upcoming Congress of the Communist Party.
Users of the app in China have experienced intermittent disruptions in the application since last week. However, as EFE was able to determine, the application seems to have been blocked permanently over the last two days.
WhatsApp, which encrypts its messages and prevents them from being monitored by third parties, is used by dissidents or activists in China in lieu of state-monitored messaging applications to share their secret information.
It is suspected that the new censorship measure was adopted in preparation for the upcoming 19th Congress of the Communist Party on Oct. 18, during which an important leadership reshuffle is expected to be announced with President Xi Jinping remaining in office.
Earlier in July, WhatsApp users had problems sending photos and videos to their contacts, which local media said was due to the Chinese government’s attempt to attack WhatsApp in favor of its rival Chinese application, WeChat, which would erase any conversation or account deemed politically sensitive for the regime.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) previously announced new regulations to tighten its control over the internet, which requires Chinese web users to verify their real identities starting from October onward, and increase control over comments made on social media.
In recent months, Chinese authorities have also tightened restrictions on online news and launched a campaign preventing Chinese netizens from using Virtual Private Network services (VPN) to gain access to foreign websites blocked by authorities in China.