I spent a great deal of time setting up WeChat while I was in China – particularly WeChat wallet which is almost an indispensable addition but often difficult for foreigners to activate. It’s no exaggeration to say that WeChat is almost a requirement for living a normal life in China. It also delivers to the Communist Party a life map of pretty much everybody in this country, citizens and foreigners alike.
I’ve just been locked out of WeChat (or Weixin 微信 as it is known in Chinese) and, to get back on, have had to pass through some pretty Orwellian steps – steps which have led others to question why I went along with it.
“Faceprint is required for security purposes,” it said.
I was instructed to hold my phone up – to ‘face front camera straight on’ – looking directly at the image of a human head. Then told to ‘Read numbers aloud in Mandarin Chinese’.
In China pretty much everyone has WeChat. It’s almost impossible to live without it. People wouldn’t be able to speak to their friends or family without it. So the censors who can lock you out of WeChat hold real power over you.
WeChat could “deliver to the Communist Party a life map of pretty much everybody in this country, citizens and foreigners alike.
Capturing the face and voice image of everyone who was suspended for mentioning the Tiananmen crackdown anniversary in recent days would be considered very useful for those who want to monitor anyone who might potentially cause problems.
The app – thought by Western intelligence agencies to be the least secure of its type in the world – has essentially got you over a barrel.
If you want to have a normal life in China, you had better not say anything controversial about the Communist Party and especially not about its leader, Xi Jinping.