The app is also only available by invitation, which has led to a small black market for invitation codes in recent days. Before the app was blocked, the price of a code was up to 300 yuan, or around $ 46.
That didn’t stop thousands of Chinese users from flocking to the platform, which has audio chat rooms that disappear when the conversations are over. In the past few days, several Chinese language chat rooms with a capacity of 5,000 users have been occupied. Some said they would connect from the mainland while others identified as Chinese based overseas. Many said they were from Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Apparently every topic on China’s censorship blacklist had been discussed. In a chat room, participants discussed which Chinese leaders were responsible for Tiananmen Square in 1989. In another chat, users shared their experiences with the Chinese police and security guards.
In a third case, participants sat in silence, mourning the year-long anniversary of the death of Li Wenliang, the doctor reprimanded for warning of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China. He died of the same disease, and his death caused the hashtag “freedom of speech” to spread widely on Chinese social media.
The app’s sudden popularity in China had led many to wonder how long the party’s government would give the party a lifetime. Social media companies operating in China are required to monitor user identities, share data with the police and adhere to strict censorship guidelines.
Most of the major Western news sites and social media apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are completely blocked in China, and access to VPNs on the mainland is becoming increasingly difficult. The domestic social media platforms approved in China, such as WeChat and Weibo, are strictly regulated and monitored by censors.
“Clubhouse is exactly what Chinese censors don’t want to see in online communications – massive, open-air conversation where people speak openly,” said Xiao Qiang, founder of the China Digital Times, a website that tracks Chinese internet controls. “It is also a reminder that when the opportunity arises, many Chinese urgently need to speak to each other and hear different points of view.”