“The U.S. app Clubhouse erupted among Chinese social-media users over the weekend,” reports Bloomberg, “with thousands joining discussions on contentious subjects…undisturbed by Beijing’s censors.”
On the invite-only, audio-based social app where users host informal conversations, Chinese-speaking communities from around the world gathered to discuss China-Taiwan relations and the prospects of unification, and to share their knowledge and experience of Beijing’s crackdown on Muslim Uighurs in the far west region of Xinjiang. Open discussion of such topics is off limits in China, where heavy government censorship is the norm…
On Friday night, a room attracted more than 4,000 people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait to share their stories and views on a range of topics including uniting the two sides. In another room on Saturday, several members of the Uighur ethnic community now living overseas shared their experience of events in Xinjiang, where China has rolled out a widely criticized re-education program that saw an estimated 1 million people or more put into camps…
“Thanks to Clubhouse I have the freedom and the audience to express my opinion,” a Finland-based doctor and activist who goes by Halmurat Harri Uyghur told Bloomberg News.
Bloomberg spoke to Michael Norris, a research/strategy manager at a Shanghai-based consultancy, who said most Chinese Clubhouse users he’d spoken to are part of the tech/investment/marketing world. “Those who do engage in political discussion on Clubhouse take on a degree of personal risk,” he said. “While most are aware Clubhouse records real names, phone numbers and voice, they are broadly unaware about recent cases in China involving interrogation and jail for errant posts on Twitter.”
Since Clubhouse so far is only accessible on Apple Inc.’s iPhone and users must have a non-Chinese Apple account, the app has only gained traction among a small cohort of educated citizens, according to Fang Kecheng, a communications professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “I don’t think it can really reach the general public in China,” he said. “If so, it will surely get blocked.”
Reuters highlights the significance of the event:
“I don’t know how long this environment can last”, said one user in a popular Weibo post that was liked over 65,000 times. “But I will definitely remember this moment in Internet history.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.