Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp is partially blocked in China as the world is set to commemorate deceased Chinese political dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo on Wednesday.
From Monday night to Tuesday evening, crowds of WhatsApp users in China were unable to send photos, audio and video clips, Apple Daily reports.
The situation caused inconvenience for many locals and foreigners alike, since WhatsApp has been popular among social movements and civil rights activists, as well as those who use it for communicating with people overseas for business purposes.
As the timing coincided with a call for worldwide memorial ceremonies for Liu on Wednesday, the seventh day after his death when his soul is believed to return to the world according to Chinese tradition, it is widely believed that Beijing wants to strengthen its control on instant messaging beforehand.
Since Liu died on July 13, messages and photos related to Liu have been blocked on WeChat and Weibo, the two most popular social media in China.
Asked at a press conference on Tuesday about what happened to WhatsApp, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he had no idea, adding that the ministry did not receive any complaints about it.
All functions of WhatsApp in China were restored several hours after the press conference, ending a blockage that lasted about 24 hours.
WhatsApp has so far not given any explanation.
Meanwhile, Liu’s wife Liu Xia has been spotted in southwest China’s Yunnan province after she attended his funeral in Shenyang, capital of northeast China’s Liaoning province, on July 15, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
It is expected that she will not be allowed to return to her home in Beijing at least until after Wednesday’s memorial events for her husband.
Global Times, one of Beijing’s party mouthpieces, slammed some western powers and Chinese exiles for using her as a bargaining chip to demand political benefits from the Chinese government, just like they used Liu Xiaobo before his death.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China is set to hold a memorial for Liu Xiabo in Tamar Park in Admiralty on Wednesday night.
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