China, which is known to censure western-based social media sites and search engines, has now temporarily blocked the Facebook-owned WhatsApp app.
Some WhatsApp users in China first noticed the disruption in the messenger service late on Monday as they were unable to exchange videos and photos and even send text-based messages. On Tuesday morning, it came to light that the blockage was more widespread across the communist country, as the government has put up a firewall with internet filters and controls, The New York Times reported.
China's clampdown on foreign companies has been going on for a long time, in the garb of helping local firms such as Weibo (vs Twitter), Baidu (vs Google search engine) and now WeChat (vs WhatsApp) to thrive, but the recent move by the communist nation has a political tone to it, as the government-sanctioned filters selectively targets only some functionalities of the WhatsApp.
The crackdown comes close on the heels of the death of Liu Xiaobo, a political prisoner in China for his pro-democracy views, due to lack of proper treatment.
Global leaders had urged China to allow Xiaobo to travel abroad to get good treatment for liver cancer.
Sadly, Xiaobo died of multiple organ failure at a closely guarded Chinese hospital on July 13, making him the first Nobel peace prize winner to die in confinement since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, the 1935 recipient, who died under custody after several years of captivity in Nazi concentration camps.
China, probably in fear of backlash from liberal citizens, who possibly attempt to disrupt 19th Party Congress event, which is held once every five years, might have disrupted the WhatsApp service.
The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is scheduled this autumn and will be attended by top party delegates to decide on new leadership of the Communist Party of China, including the Central Committee and alternate members of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. With this, the government believes that it will stop people from sharing anti-government videos, graphic images and text quotes.
This is a developing story, keep an eye on this space for latest updates on WhatsApp operation status in China.