Effects on Beijing expats of new policies after China’s 19th National Congress

Published:  7 Nov at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA, China, Travel Abroad
China’s recent Communist Party National Congress is the latest in a long line of five-yearly get-togethers of the all-powerful party faithful in order to select new leaders and approve new policies.

Expats unconcerned about following the news in Beijing and elsewhere in China may not be interested in the results, but will be affected sooner rather than later. Firstly, and worryingly for digital nomads as well as expats wanting to regularly contact their families and friends in the home country, VPNs are to be far more tightly monitored than previously. Many Western-based social media sites including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have only been accessible via a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

The National Congress approved measures to crack down even harder on VPN usage, possibly disallowing expats from contacting their loved ones regularly by live chat or on social media. Express VPN is a favourite with China-based subscribers, and is now urging its China-based customers to upgrade its apps in order to continue to use the paid service.
Whatsapp, another favourite with the expat community in China, was banned just less than one month before the National Congress, with tech experts certain its disappearance is not exactly a coincidence.

WeChat groups are now being warned their moderators will be held responsible for any members chatting about illegal subjects, of which there are many in China. Petitions are possibly targets, as are any comments deemed unsuitable. Regulars on the site expect a dearth of moderators sooner rather than later. Foreign blogs and websites which were accessible but slow are now even slower, with many now unable to be loaded at all.

For the past few weeks, access to Chinese English language news and blog sites from outside China has been severely restricted, usually via the ‘cannot load page’ message. In addition to internet woes, expats in Beijing endured travel restrictions, extra security on transport services, no express delivery options and other inexplicable restrictions, all of which have now been lifted following the end of the National Congress.
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