BEIJING (CHINA) – The latest invite-only chat app ‘Clubhouse’ is attracting masses of new users from mainland China. Despite discussions on rights, national identity and other sensitive topics, the app remains uncensored by authorities.
China has banned western social media apps including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Local internet too is tightly censored to weed out content that could undermine the ruling communist party.
The Clubhouse app, launched in early 2020, gained huge number of followers earlier this month after Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev held a surprise discussion on the platform.
As of Sunday, invites to the platform were selling for between 50-400 yuan ($7.73 – $69.59) on popular Chinese e-commerce sites.
Users have been logging in an listening to Chinese-language ‘club’ conversations which discusses topics including Xinjiang detention camps, Taiwan independence and Hong Kong’s National Security Law.
Clubhouse is only available on iOS devices and is unavailable in the local Apple app store, making it difficult for its widespread use in China.
Mainland Chinese users are accessing the app by modifying the location of their app store.
It’s unclear why the app remains unblocked in China, though some foreign social sites with small Chinese followings manage to operate under the radar of censors, including 8kun, a central hub for QAnon followers.
In one club chat centred on Hong Kong politics, activists, journalists and artists discussed former US president Trump and his support base in the former colony.
Another popular Chinese language club on the site as of Saturday involved a rare open exchange between netizens in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong over heightened political tensions in the region.
The discussion became a hot topic on China’s own Twitter-like social media site Weibo on Saturday.
“I don’t know how long this environment can last”, said one user in a popular Weibo post that was liked over 65,000 times. “But I will definitely remember this moment in Internet history.”