The WeChat app’s icon is seen on a smartphone in an illustration. (REUTERS/FILE)
The WeChat app’s icon is seen on a smartphone in an illustration. (REUTERS/FILE)

Popular Chinese app WeChat suspends new registrations

In a social media post, Tencent-owned WeChat, known as Weixin in China, said the suspension was related to an upgrade of security technology “according to relevant laws and regulations”
By Sutirtho Patranobis
PUBLISHED ON JUL 27, 2021 07:57 PM IST

Tech giant Tencent Holdings’ WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app, said it was suspending registration of new users in mainland China until early August as it was undergoing a technical upgrade.

The development comes amid a widening crackdown by Chinese regulators on technology and private tutoring companies.

In a social media post, WeChat, known as Weixin in China, said the suspension was related to an upgrade of security technology “according to relevant laws and regulations”.

“During this time, registration of new Weixin personal and official accounts has been temporarily suspended. Registration services will be restored after the upgrade is complete, which is expected in early August,” it said.

It did not elaborate on either the upgrade or what the laws or regulations were.

Tencent’s stocks in Hong Kong went down by nearly 9% on Tuesday, its worst day in a decade, reports said.

Recently, cab-hailing giant Didi suspended registration of new users after several departments of the Chinese government launched an investigation into alleged misuse of private data.

Earlier, ecommerce giant Alibaba faced investigations for alleged monopolistic behaviour.

WeChat is the latest in that fast-growing list.

The app says it has around 1.2 billion users worldwide with the majority of users on the Chinese mainland.

Hundreds of millions of people in China use the app to message friends, make payments, book taxis, and share highlights of their lives under a category of update called “moments”.

Since its launch about a decade ago, the app has come to occupy a central place in the social media lives of Chinese citizens not only in China, but among the diaspora in the world.

Its use became even more widespread through the launch of mini-programmes that allow users to carry out a wide range of functions such as paying utility bills.

A mini-programme in the app played a key role in implementing China’s Covid-19 control protocols. “Over 800 million people have used the Health Code Mini Programme for checking their health status as they enter public places, while some 550 million said they have used another digital travel card in the programme that provides an overview of their itinerary in the past two weeks,” state-run China Daily wrote in an article on WeChat earlier this year.

In January this year, reports said WeChat’s brand value increased 25% to $67.9 billion.

Beijing-based tech consultant Zhou Zhanggui told Reuters that investors were over-reacting to the “rectification” of Chinese tech companies.

“The suspension of new user registrations on WeChat has no substantial impact on Tencent in the short term,” Zhou said.

WeChat was one of the 59 Chinese apps banned by India in June 2020, because as per India’s information technology ministry, they were “engaged in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.

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