Fake news causes expat panic in Nanjing

Published:  20 Oct at 6 PM
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Expats in Nanjing and along the East Coast are in a state of panic due to fake news on an internet chat room.

An article on Expatlife’s WeChat page has caused expats living in Nanjing to panic in case the restrictions described were true. Rumourmongering targeting China’s expat communities is a fairly new phenomenon, but it’s always hard to define what’s true and what’s false in China. The WeChat page quickly went viral with its extreme claims of action against foreign residents in the region, with expats in various, sectors rushing to find out whether the news was authentic.

The offending article, since deleted from WeChat, stated a ban on foreigners travelling to tourism hubs such as Shanghai and Beijing during this week’s Communist Party Congress. It went on to warn against large gatherings of foreigners whatever their purpose, including religious meetings. Furthermore, foreigners were told to exercise caution at all times, with harsh scrutiny of those who disobeyed the orders. Similar posts were sent to foreign organisations at the same time, but gave no information as to their origin.

It’s as yet unclear where the WeChat rumours came from, but official reaction to the article was swift and unequivocal. Nanjing Normal University was besieged by scared foreign students wanting to know why travel was now banned, but an official release quietened the clamour by stating Expatlife had published fake news. There are no regulations forbidding travel nor are there any preventing legal religious get-togethers, according to the authorities.

Other worrying posts. including a message saying China had shut down all VPNs. were equally quickly denied by the authorities, adding to the billions of fake news reports issued in China via Baidu. The service’s president told a Bloomberg TV reporter the number of possibly fake news posts is massive, with all needing to be verified – a real challenge for the company. Expats are being told to disregard messages unless they can be identified as coming from genuine sources.
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