Final Axe Falls on WeChat, China Says 'Deliberate Interference' in Cooperation Won't Help India

WeChat, a Chinese app that had been partially functional even after the ban, has now sent notifications to its Indian users, saying that it is unable to offer services.

New Delhi: Chinese messaging app WeChat, which had been partially functioning in India even after the app ban, suspended operations for Indian users this weekend. In its aftermath, China has asserted that “deliberate interference” in “practical cooperation” will not serve India’s interest.

On June 29, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had issued an order banning 59 mobile applications belonging to Chinese IT companies to “safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and Internet users”. A day later, China termed the move as discriminatory and a possible violation of rules of the World Trade Organization.

An additional 47 Chinese apps were banned on July 27, but their full list is yet to be made public by the IT ministry.

While the first list had included the popular WeChat, the operations of the messaging app was suspended only in the last few days.

Also read: Where Does India’s Ban on Chinese Apps Fit Into the Global Trade Debate?

A July 26 report in Global Times, China’s state-run English language tabloid, stated that WeChat has sent notifications to its Indian users, saying that it is unable to offer services on Saturday “pursuant to Indian law” and that they were “engaging with relevant authorities”.

The head of a financial technology provider based in Gurugram and which has Chinese investment, Scott Wang told GT that the move was only impacting WeChat accounts registered with Indian mobile numbers.

“Our employees with Indian phone numbers were automatically logged out of WeChat,” said Wang, adding that his WeChat account which is linked to a Chinese phone number was still functioning normally.

While WeChat had been taken down from Google Play and Apple Store, users who had already installed the app could still use it with limited functionality. “However, without clear guidance on if, how and when the apps will be completely be removed from the Indian market, WeChat has been making tentative moves to reduce its services since the ban was announced in June,” said the Global Times article.

News18 quoted an unnamed Chinese national working in Gurugram that the WeChat suspension would affect a large number of compatriots working in India. “We weren’t affected by the ban of TikTok or any other apps but the absence of WeChat will hamper our social and professional communications in India. Since we don’t use email for official communication, we have been cut off from our headquarters based in China,” said the Chinese national.

In a statement, Chinese embassy spokesperson Ji Rong said on Tuesday that the “relevant reports” had been noted.

“Practical cooperation between China and India is mutually beneficial. Deliberate interference in such cooperation will not serve the interests of the Indian side,” she stated.

The spokesperson asserted that China will also take “necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies”.

Ji reminded that China had already issued a strong protest after the June 29 order, which had “severely damaged the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies”.

“I want to reiterate that the Chinese government consistently asks Chinese enterprises to abide by international rules and local laws and regulations when conducting external cooperation. The Indian government has the responsibility to protect the legitimate rights and interests of international investors in India, including Chinese businesses, in accordance with market principles,” she stated.