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what happened to our whatsapp

China has largely blocked the WhatsApp messaging app, the latest move by Beijing to step up surveillance ahead of a big Communist Party gathering next month.

The disabling in mainland China of the Facebook-owned app is a setback for the social media giant, whose chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has been pushing to re-enter the Chinese market, and has been studying the Chinese language intensively. WhatsApp was the last of Facebook products to still be available in mainland China; the company’s main social media service has been blocked in China since 2009, and its Instagram image-sharing app is also unavailable.

In mid-July, Chinese censors began blocking video chats and the sending of photographs and other files using WhatsApp, and they stopped many voice chats, as well. But most text messages on the app continued to go through normally. The restrictions on video, audio chats and file sharing were at least temporarily lifted after a few weeks.

Over the past several years, China has not only stepped up censorship but also closed numerous churches and jailed large numbers of human rights activists, lawyers and advocates for ethnic minorities.
The shutdown of WhatsApp prompted considerable dismay on Chinese social media.

Residents of mainland China can still use services like WhatsApp if they first connect to virtual private networks that provide them with communications channels to servers outside the Chinese mainland. But the government has also been cracking down on virtual private networks in recent months — and even when those networks appear to be working, they sometimes do not allow access to services that the government is particularly targeting.