Police in at least seven cities around China have issued notices since last week, demanding parents “immediately” uninstall encrypted messaging apps from their children’s mobile phones.
This is one of the most recent attempts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to censor information and control the Chinese people, according to Chinese dissidents.
The apps banned include foreign apps such as Telegram (known in Chinese as “Paper Plane” as per the logo of Telegram), WhatsApp, and Twitter, according to reports of several Chinese state-run mouthpieces.
Domestically developed apps of Seagull, Miliaomao, Shimida, and Batchat are also on the list of apps banned by Chinese police.
A notice from Nanjing police authorities in China’s east on May 19 warned that these apps are used by criminals to coax youngsters to provide private information, thus becoming “accomplices” of the criminals and even “assisting internet crimes.”
The police claimed that the encryption function and the “delete after reading” function of these apps have “increased the difficulty of investigation” of these online scam cases.
They also warned in the notice that these crimes are subject to a maximum of three years of imprisonment and/or fines.
According to online information viewed by the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times, police authorities in various locations such as Fujian Province in the east, the provinces of Sichuan and Guangxi in the southwest, Hainan Prefecture in the south, Qinghai and Gansu provinces in the northwest, and Inner Mongolia in the north have issued similar warnings.
Dawu workers clash with riot police in Langwuzhuang in Hebei Province, China, on Aug. 4, 2020. (Courtesy of China Change)
China’s state-run news outlet The Paper reported that parents are required by some local authorities to “take the child to the nearest public security agency to find out whether the child has engaged in a crime.”
CCP Fears Youngsters’ Awakening: Chinese Dissidents
Dissidents in China believe that Chinese police are attempting to further tighten their grip over China’s internet and are particularly targeting young people.
The CCP regime under Xi Jinping has been stricter than his predecessors, said Zeng Jieming, a former Chinese journalist now based in the United States, told the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times on May 23.
“Restricting freedom of speech, the CCP fears that its indoctrination of elementary school students may be undermined by encrypted chat software. Under Xi Jinping, the CCP’s authoritarianism is even more stringent than that of his predecessors. It strives to close off any areas beyond its control,” said Zeng.
A Chinese rights lawyer still living in China only gave his family name Chen in the interview with the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times yesterday. He expressed a similar view.
“The CCP sets up the Great Firewall to ensure the public remains uninformed and confined, who resemble frogs in a well and have no knowledge of what’s happening outside. The CCP’s greatest fear is young individuals utilizing techniques to circumvent the firewall and employing secure software to communicate, exchange ideas, and foster intellectual clashes among themselves. This is precisely what the CCP dreads the most,” said Chen.
He said that he is happy to see youngsters in China are wakening up.
“Many junior high school and high school students are now circumventing the Great Firewall, which is a positive phenomenon,” said Chen, repeating that this is what the CCP fears.
What is sad is that many Chinese people don’t realize the CCP is “the true hostile force of the Chinese people.”
“The CCP is really cheating and deceiving the people and the nation,” he said.
CCP’s Suppression Is Illegal: Chinese Official
“There is no legal basis for [the police] to punish and suppress elementary and middle school students who use these software applications,” said Wu, a pseudonym, in an interview with the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times yesterday. Wu is a graduate of China’s prestigious Peking University and is working in a government institution in China.
In China, any app must be registered with the CCP’s cyber and police authorities before it is put into operation. Three of the four Chinese apps have public network security numbers, which indicates that they have passed the regime’s stringent registration processes.
Only Miliaomao’s public network security number is not available on its website.
Wu said that the communist authorities have mandated the installation of the so-called anti-fraud apps on people’s cell phones. “They claim that the apps are to prevent crimes and scams. But in reality, they use the apps to monitor people, because they fear people accessing uncensored information and taking actions beyond their surveillance.”
Riot police deploy pepper spray toward journalists on the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China as protesters gathered for a rally against the new National Security Law in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020. (Dale De La Rey/AFP via Getty Images)
Wu said that the CCP targets the youngsters out of its fear that the young generations will stand up against the CCP.
He noted that young people used Telegram for communication in multiple protests in the past four years, including the anti-extradition bill protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and the White Paper Movement in 2022.
“Essentially, the suppression [of dissidents] is to maintain the rule of the [CCP’s] authoritarian regime,” said Wu.
Outcries From Netizens
Netizens have blasted the Chinese authorities on the internet where they can.
A netizen using the Twitter name Answer posted in a May 22 tweet: “This article mentions minors, even elementary school students. This indicates that students are breaking through [CCP] information censorship.” The netizen said that if people are circumventing the CCP’s Great Firewall on a large scale, then it is of no use now.
“If minors are capable of bypassing the firewall, then college students would be even more adept at it,” the netizen added.
“Doesn’t this indirectly acknowledge that the CCP is unable to decrypt this end-to-end encrypted communication method?” another netizen asked on a Chinese social media platform.
“Looks like they are good stuff. Let me download one,” still another netizen wrote.
The Epoch Times reached out to the Nanjing Police Bureau for comment and has not received a reply as of press time. Chinese social media app Seagull could not be reached by The Epoch Times.
Xia Song and Luo Ya contributed to this report.