The app is also for invitees only, which has spurred a small black market for invite codes appearing in recent days. Before the app was blocked, the starting price for a code went up to 300 yuan, or about $ 46.
That hasn’t stopped thousands of Chinese users from flocking to the platform that offers audio chat rooms away when chats are over. In recent days, a number of Chinese chat rooms have been filled with a capacity of 5,000 users. Some said they are connecting from the mainland, while others are identified as Chinese living abroad. Many said they were from Hong Kong and Taiwan.
It seems that every topic on China’s censorship blacklist has been discussed. In a chat room, participants debated how Chinese leaders were held accountable for the 1989. Suppression of Tiananmen Square. In another chat room, users shared experiences about their meetings with the Chinese police and security officials.
In a third, the participants sat in silence as they mourned the first day of death of Li Wenliang, the doctor reprimanded for warning about the coronavirus in Wuhan, China. He died of a similar illness, and his death caused the hashtag “free speech” to spread widely on Chinese social networks.
The app’s sudden popularity in China left many wondering how long the government would allow the party to last. Social media companies operating in China must track users’ identities, share data with the police, and adhere to strict censorship guidelines.
Most major Western news sites and social media apps like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are completely blocked in China, and VPNs are increasingly difficult to access in the mainland. The homegrown social networking platforms allowed in China, like WeChat and Weibo, are tightly regulated and monitored by the censors.
“Clubhouse is exactly what Chinese censors don’t want to see in online communications,” said Xiao Qiang, founder of China Digital Times, a website that tracks China’s internet control activities. – a huge, free chat. “It is also a reminder that when given the opportunity, many Chinese people desperately need to talk to each other and hear different perspectives.”