Clubhouse app gives Chinese rare access to uncensored topics
Chinese internet users are flocking to a rare uncensored app to breach the “Great Firewall” and freely discuss taboo topics, including the mass detention of Uighurs, democracy protests in Hong Kong and the concept of Taiwanese independence.
Authoritarian China deploys a vast and sophisticated surveillance state to scrub the internet of dissent and prevent citizens from accessing international social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
But Clubhouse appears to have side-stepped the censors — for now.
The American invite-only audio app allows users to listen and participate in loosely moderated live conversations in digital “rooms”.
And in recent days, Chinese internet users have filled those rooms discussing highly censored subjects — such as Beijing’s sweeping incarceration of mostly Muslim minority Uighur communities in the far western Xinjiang region.
“A young woman from mainland China just said on Clubhouse: this is my first time getting on the real internet,” Isabelle Niu, a journalist listening to a conversation, tweeted on Sunday.
Taobao, a popular online marketplace used by millions daily, and other e-commerce sites had membership invitations for sale with prices ranging from 10 to 100 yuan ($1.5-$15), allowing some to bypass restrictions placed on invitations.
Clubhouse was launched in May last year and is currently only available on Apple devices, something only wealthier Chinese consumers can afford.
It rocketed in popularity after billionaire Elon Musk participated in a conversation on the app earlier this month.
Kaiser Kuo, host of the China-focused Sinica Podcast, live-tweeted on Sunday some of the conversations he was hearing in a room discussing the Uighur situation.
He noted how Han Chinese — the dominant ethnic group in China — and people from the persecuted Uighur community were interacting in the space…..read more