Dozens of Chinese netizens have desperately asked for access to their WeChat app accounts after hundreds were banned for posting about a rare Beijing street protest against President Xi Jinping.
The app is vital to daily life in China as it enables hundreds of millions of people to communicate, make payments, participate in Covid contact tracing and access entertainment, but it is also heavily monitored by the state.
The accounts of hundreds of WeChat users have been partially permanently suspended after they referred to a small demonstration in the capital on Thursday calling for Xi’s ouster.
It comes at a delicate time, as the ruling Communist Party is meeting at a five-year congress to anoint Xi for a historic third term in power.
“I’ve been thinking really seriously about my mistake and I promise…I will definitely follow the guidelines strictly,” one Beijing local wrote on Friday in a post on another Chinese social network, which has since been deleted.
“I sincerely hope your company can unblock my account. I will never post an inappropriate video or picture again in the future.”
Another user who said his WeChat account was permanently banned said: “I am very concerned since it happened and I regret my behavior.”
“I’ve been using this account for 10 years and it has a lot of valuable photos and messages from friends on it.”
A WeChat user from the southern city of Guangzhou told AFP that some functions of his account were temporarily restricted for 24 hours on Sunday after sharing photos in a chat group of posters expressing support for the Beijing protest brought.
“I can feel the isolation of not being able to like/reply/reply to group chat messages…and I feel even more sympathy for users who have been permanently banned,” she said.
Beijing is on high alert for any disruption to the week-long Communist Party gathering that began on Sunday, with the city under a tight security blanket.
Videos and photos shared on social media on Thursday showed a lone protester draping two hand-painted banners from a bridge with slogans criticizing government policies regarding Covid and calling for voting rights.
“No Covid tests, I want to make a living. No cultural revolution, I want reforms. No locks, I want freedom. No guides, I want to choose. No lies, I want dignity. I will not be a slave, I will be a citizen,” read one banner.
“Strike, depose the dictator and national traitor Xi Jinping,” said another.
Police and security forces quickly swarmed the bridge and volunteers were deployed to guard other pedestrian bridges in Beijing after the protest, while online searches of the incident were heavily censored.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published by a syndicated feed.)