When ‘WeChat,’ the Chinese Regime Listens 

September 17, 2020 Updated: September 21, 2020

Commentary

Disney’s remake of “Mulan” drew waves of criticism for filming near the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) mass internment camps for Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, a region in China’s far west.

There, under increasing surveillance and repression, the predominantly Muslim, Turkic-speaking ethnic minority struggles to survive.

In the movie’s credits, Disney thanked the very entities responsible for persecuting the Uyghurs, including the police bureau in Turpan, an ancient Silk Road city in eastern Xinjiang, home to the persecuted Uyghur population. U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) wrote on Twitter, “While the CCP is committing crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, Disney thanked four Xinjiang propaganda departments.”

These CCP entities habitually lie to the world about human rights violations and threats to freedom of speech.

China’s assaults on basic human rights aren’t contained to the hapless Uyghurs in Xinjiang. CCP security agencies routinely suppress freedom of speech, both on and offline, through many invasive surveillance techniques, including their state-controlled social media tools, WeChat and TikTok.

Several years ago, Gabriel, an American friend with a heart for the Chinese people, personally experienced this threat when he traveled to China to help host a summer football camp for children. On the third day of camp, a group of Chinese agents from China’s State Security (MSS), approached Gabriel. Officials confiscated his passport and transported him to a secret location for interrogation. There, they began bombarding my friend with a series of unscrupulous questions.

“What is your relation to Bob Fu?”

“Why would this Bob Fu guy promote your summer camp program on his WeChat site?”

The MSS agents displayed a stack of printed documents. These papers revealed all the WeChat group messages I had posted in Texas, endorsing Gabriel’s summer football camps in China.

The CCP’s public records show that Tencent Global, the parent company of WeChat, employs more than 11,000 CCP members. Inside as well as outside of China, these workers manage surveillance contents and control every WeChat user’s data.

In a sense, “made-in-China” social media apps such as WeChat and Tiktok may be considered “quarterbacks”—the CCP’s star players to advance their agenda in the expansive, critical, challenging technological standoff between China and the United States. As the CCP implements its integral surveillance in international strategic plays, this positions China as one of the United States’ primary national security threats.

In response, President Donald Trump has threatened to completely ban WeChat and TikTok from the United States.

Critics of Trump’s proposed ban on WeChat and TikTok claim that this sanction would create an inconvenience for users inside the United States, violate American freedom of speech; and negatively affect U.S. corporations in China such as Apple, Ford, Walmart, and Disney.

These concerns can be easily answered. Instead of sacrificing America’s security for convenience’s sake, it would be wiser to utilize safer, more secure methods of communication such as WhatsApp.

As to freedom of speech, CCP officials through its “Great Firewall,” have banned all U.S. social media platforms. The CCP is the government repressing free speech, and they do so through state-controlled platforms such as WeChat and TikTok.

American corporations with profits in China often work harder at cultivating their relationship with the CCP than at promoting American principles. For instance, they spend little time pressuring the CCP to lift the ban on popular social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google.

A U.S. ban on CCP-controlled social media would incentivize these corporations to advance freedom of speech globally. Trump’s proposed ban on the CCP’s surveillance tools on U.S. soil could ultimately help enable a billion Chinese citizens to access Google or Facebook accounts free from communist control.

Two years ago, CCP authorities arrested, prosecuted, and charged Liu Meiting and Han Lifang, a husband and wife from Shaanxi Province, with “inciting subversion of CCP State power.” As “evidence” of this couple’s “crimes,” officials presented a message they each posted on their WeChat accounts. The Ministry of Public Security directly ordered officers to arrest the couple for sending a public letter to a U.S. diplomat via WeChat. The court ultimately sentenced Liu and Han to four and three years in prison, respectively.

Chinese national security-related laws compel WeChat employees to spy on others—even if they are unwilling to do so. Article 7 of China’s National Intelligence Law states, “Any organization or citizen shall support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work in accordance with the law, and maintain the secrecy of all knowledge of state intelligence work.”

Article 28 of China’s Cybersecurity Law directs, “Network operators shall provide technical support and assistance to public security organs and national security organs that are safeguarding national security and investigating criminal activities in accordance with the law.”

Article 11 of China’s National Security Law states, “All citizens of the People’s Republic of China … shall have the responsibility and obligation to maintain national security.”

Do you want all of your private conversations and personal data stored in the Communist Party’s security agencies in Beijing? Is it right for the regime to imprison citizens like Liu and Han for simply expressing their opinions about the CCP’s corruption on WeChat groups? Do you condone the kind of arbitrary detention and harassment of Americans that my friend Gabriel experienced?

If your answer is no to these questions, then you should applaud the courageous decision of the Trump administration to ban WeChat and other CCP spyware from America.

Instead of permitting the CCP to score another touchdown against Americans, it’s time to sack their quarterback. The personal fouls of the CCP’s egregious violations of international norms must be called out. They need to be tackled with the strictest enforcement possible, even if that means penalizing them with ejection from the U.S. playing field.

As long as WeChat operates in the United States under the repressive control of the CCP’s dictatorship, neither we, our data, nor our country’s national security will be safe.

Bob Fu, Ph.D., is a senior fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council and president of China Aid.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.