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University of California tells students not to use WeChat, WhatsApp in China

Meng, who was imprisoned in Vancouver and is present in the bail, faces any extradition to the United States of suspicion of violating US sanctions against Iran.
Since her arrest, several Canadians have been detained in China and two – Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig – are being investigated with suspicions of "activities that threatened China's national security", as prosecutors say are politically motivated.

"While the use of WhatsApp, WeChat and as a messaging program is legal in China, we have seen in the latest espionage fee for a US citizen in Russia where the use of WhatsApp has been quoted in his espionage fees," read an email that seen by CNN.

"Our concern here is the possibility that China may use this condition in the same way against Western travelers to charge or as an excuse for denying departure. We recommend that you do not use these messaging programs in China right now."

Representatives of WeChat and WhatsApp did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"Exercise Increased Caution"

A spokesman for UC Davis confirmed campus staff and students had received the email after the news was first reported by the South China Morning Post. Students at UC Berkeley also received the email.

"UC Davis Global Affairs routinely posts links to the State Travel Advisory and CDC (Centers for Disease Control) health care counseling for places where our faculty, staff and students travel," said spokeswoman CNN.

The email was sent by Gary Leonard, a managing director with UC's Risk Services Department, at the President's Office. Leonard, who travels, did not immediately respond to an email request for comment. Nor did a spokesman for the president's office answer.

Leonard's guidance ̵
1; which has not been posted on the UC's website and does not appear to have been received by all students – was sent along with a general warning issued last week by the US State Department to all citizens of China.

The warning, which raised the threat from 1 to 2 on a four-point scale, urged Americans to "exercise greater caution in China because of arbitrary application of local laws and special restrictions for dual American Chinese." [19659006] "Don't sign anything"

China has always had a little worried relationship with foreign students.

About one million international students live in the country and many prestigious Western institutions are operating or collaborating with universities in China – including New York University, Duke University and the University of Liverpool – especially foreign graduates have also been treated with suspicion.
In 2016, a propaganda poster released as part of the National Security Training Day warned Chinese citizens that good-looking aliens could try to steal sensitive information.

The poster style showed a female named Xiao Li, who was showered with compliments, red roses, fine dinners and romantic walks in the park of David, a "visiting scholar examining questions about China" convincing her to share internal government actions.

Graduates and even some students who visit China have complained about being watched and followed by police or intervening to question their research and who they are talking to in the country.

In addition to warning "not signing anything," the new UC guidance instructs staff to be cautious with prolonged Q&A or interrogation to avoid inadvertently providing any information that may be distorted to deny resignation or facilitate an arrest. "

Previously, concerns have mainly focused on people's public statements or statements to the authorities, but the new management suggests that officials are concerned that even private comments may be used against graduates and students.

" New Level of Suppression "

UC's concern seems to be well-founded, China is increasingly breaking into previously tolerated areas of deviation, with even private comments being policed.

Over the past few months, the authorities have "held or called dozens or more (Chinese) Twitter users, which forced them to delete sensitive tweets or close their accounts, "according to Human Rights Watch (HRW)." In some cases, the authorities seem to have hacked accounts themselves. "

Twitter is blocked inside China and while a small number of Chinese dissidents and activists use the platform, their influence is limited and in the past they were most ignored by authorities na.

While tweets are public, the Chinese authorities have previously persecuted people for things that they say privately, especially on Tencent's messaging program WeChat, which has a record to conform to state censorship and surveillance.

In a messaging privacy report, Amnesty International ranked Tencent out of 100, and WeChat has been accused of reading users' messages and storing data. While Tencent has denied reading messages, a new Chinese security law should store logs and relevant information for at least six months and provide them with the authorities when requested.

"Many agencies have shown that Chinese authorities have access to private chat on WeChat," said HRW's Yaqiu Wang to CNN.

"The breakdown of Chinese Twitter users and the punishment directed at WeChat users for their private messages shows that the authorities have become increasingly intolerant of speech that is private or anonymous."

While WhatsApp – which boasts end-to-end encryption and foreign-backed foreign servers for the Chinese authorities – is theoretically much safer than WeChat or other Chinese messaging programs, if the authorities can compromise on a target phone with malicious code or other methods, encryption will not protect them.

Experts have long warned to use WeChat for something sensitive, although Apple's pure dominance makes it difficult to avoid entirely in China.

"It's not an exaggeration to say I live in and work with WeChat," the New York Times technology columnist Li Yuan wrote recently, adding that the surveillance danger is "just the way of life".

"The reality is that ordinary Chinese often feel powerless and fatalistic about censorship and surveillance," she said.

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