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Chinese netizens are bidding for access to Clubhouse, an online public meeting app that is quickly becoming popular around the world. Accessing the app is free: you only need to be invited by a user already inside. But Chinese citizens are offering up to 65 euros for one of these invitations.
As reported by the Financial Times, Chinese Internet users want access to this platform where they believe they can discuss sensitive issues such as the situation of the Uyghur minority in Sinkiang or the latest news from Hong Kong, without being subject to censorship by the Chinese government.
Invitations sell out quickly on e-commerce platforms in the Asian country, where they appear at an average price of 500 yuan, about 77 dollars or about 65 euros depending on the exchange rate. Clubhouse has become popular as celebrities such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk or Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg have hosted these voice chat rooms with complete strangers.
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The app was born in Silicon Valley in the middle of last year and has just arrived in China. Taobao, one of the country’s leading e-commerce portals owned by Alibaba, has more than 200 sellers offering invitations to the platform. Some have explained to the Financial Times that they have had thousands of customers.
Fang Kecheng, professor of Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has emphasized that many people “want to know what has happened in Sinkiang or Hong Kong.” In the first province, the imprisonment of thousands of Uyghurs has been denounced, which the U.S. has called “genocide”. In Hong Kong, protests against the Chinese government have been going on for months.
David Li is one of the businessmen who have sold invitations to Clubhouse. Specifically, he has offered more than 50, and has stressed, also in statements to the British media, that it is “the latest craze in apps”. “It’s different from any Chinese platform out there.”
Mark Zuckerberg makes a surprise appearance in a Clubhouse room to talk about the future and telecommuting
Clubhouse, which is also landing and becoming popular in Spain, is only available by invitation and for the moment on iOS -iPhone- devices. In China, for the time being, it is not subject to the government regulation to which platforms such as WeChat, Tencent’s alternative to WhatsApp, are subject.
WeChat, in order to comply with Chinese regulations, blocks and censors “illegal” content. Facebook or Twitter, for example, are directly blocked throughout the Chinese national territory.
Last Sunday, according to the Financial Times, a public meeting at Clubhouse hosted more than 700 people who identified themselves as Chinese or Taiwanese citizens. The discussion centered on comparing the political system of the two states: many citizens showed their sympathy for island self-rule and their concern about China’s one-party rule.
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“It’s true that Xi Jinping’s government is good at doing its own thing,” one participant acknowledged. “But I worry about the lack of checks and balances to prevent it from doing the wrong things in the future.”
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