For several weeks, residents of mainland China were able to freely discuss even the most “sensitive” issues without fear of being struck by lightning from the Beijing authorities. The clubhouse’s social network offered them an incredible bubble of freedom in a country whose regime is increasingly less tolerant of dissenting voices.
This window on freedom of expression will only have remained open for a short time. The clubhouse application in China has not been accessible since Monday evening. The Beijing authorities have decided to block this very popular application that does not record language exchanges or leave written records.
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Some Chinese were willing to pay 70 euros for an invitation to join this social network, which was developed by two former Google employees in the US and is accessible via a co-option.
Lokman Tsui, an assistant professor at the Hong Kong University’s School of Journalism and Communication, wasn’t surprised by the decision to silence the app. “Think of how scared Beijing was a year ago when the Chinese mostly demanded freedom of expression after Li Wenliang’s death,” the researcher said, referring to the Chinese doctor who set off the Covid-19 death alarm in February 2020 .
On Monday, the Chinese government-affiliated Global Times newspaper called certain comments exchanged in the clubhouse “rumors”, giving users a voice who felt the application was “boring”, biased and anti-Chinese.
The social network therefore suffered the same fate as WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, these other platforms that are banned in China.