Advocates Say China Users on Banned Social Platforms Need Protection

International social media sites are under pressure from rights campaigners to take further steps to stop Chinese authorities from gaining access to user data. The call was made in response to two well-known Chinese social media influencers who claimed on YouTube and X that Chinese police were looking into their following and had even summoned some of them in for interrogation. China’s Great Firewall blocks thousands of websites, including the BBC, VOA, and The New York Times, as well as social media sites like X and YouTube. However, a growing number of Chinese people are utilizing virtual private networks to access X, YouTube, and other websites for news and information, even as social controls get stricter under Xi Jinping’s leadership.


Li Ying, also referred to as Teacher Li on the internet, is among the social media influencers who released the alert on Sunday. Li gained notoriety as a news and information source in 2022 after an uncommon public outcry against the harsh zero-COVID policy of the Chinese government. His X account has now developed into a central location for user-provided news and videos that are censored online by the Chinese government because they are deemed sensitive. Teacher Li said on Sunday, “At the moment, my 1.6 million followers and everyone in the comments are being checked, one by one, by the public security bureau.” He posted screen grabs of the private messages sent to him by his followers in the previous few months.


Although VOA was unable to independently confirm the veracity of the charges, reports from rights organizations and court records from China have previously shown that the nation is increasingly using social media sites that are prohibited in China to imprison, prosecute, and sentence people for remarks they made online. Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, stated that he was unaware of the specifics pertaining to the social media influencers. “As a principle, the Chinese government manages internet-related affairs according to law and regulation,” Liu stated.

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