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As U.S. bans WeChat, local Chinese Americans face loss of tool that's become integral to their lives

Original post made on Sep 19, 2020

The popular Chinese-owned mobile app WeChat, which has been the main communications lifeblood for local Chinese Americans, could see a mass exodus of its users after the U.S. Department of Commerce banned it from mobile app stores.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 18, 2020, 9:37 PM

Comments (35)

Posted by Truth
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2020 at 3:24 am

Truth is a registered user.

This will encourage the users to learn more English and assimilate like they should. It’s okay to practice their culture but lack of knowing the majority language is divisive.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 19, 2020 at 7:51 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "...the main communications lifeblood for local Chinese Americans,"

^ Chinese Americans or Chinese nationals (i.e. recently arrived Mandarins) currently residing in the United States?

> "This will encourage the users to learn more English and assimilate like they should."

^ It is amazing how many different international translations there are of the CA Vehicle Code handbook at the DMV.
At one time they were only offered in English and Spanish.

And ESL examiners are often used to complete the 'on-road' driving examination for applicants without a working knowledge of English.

If one cannot even read a traffic or street sign let alone the CA DMV handbook and written test in English, should they even be allowed to operate a moving vehicle?


Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2020 at 11:10 am

Me 2 is a registered user.

"But he also thinks the U.S. ban might open up more social media platforms between Chinese Americans and, particularly, mainland Chinese users."

Typical to lump everyone of Chinese descent into one big bucket. Most people that communicate with people in Taiwan use Line, not WeChat. And there's a bunch of "Chinese Americans" that don't use WeChat at all.

BTW, the WeChat experience in the US is neutered compared to China. Yes, people in China use all those different features like sending money, shopping, etc. But here, it's just a chat app.

"But on Twitter, the American Civil Liberties Union contends that the ban on WeChat is a violation of the First Amendment and reflects 'Trump's xenophobic and racist agenda.'"

Given the ACLU's recent suit against Palo Alto to open up Foothills Park because of "racism," I don't believe anything they say when it comes to race relations. In any case, they're just gearing up for a big fundraising drive. Open your wallets, SJWs.


Posted by Palo Alto resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 19, 2020 at 11:15 am

Palo Alto resident is a registered user.

I have lived abroad and I know how important it is to stay in touch with friends and family at home. I am sorry to hear that one of the few ways for our Chinese neighbors to communicate easily with people in China is being taken away.

I do not understand the comments above. I want our immigrants to be able to drive safely (to ESL class, to school, to childcare, to work). I am glad the driver's ed books are translated so they can easily learn the rules of the road. I also want our immigrants to be happy and productive. I am glad when they can talk with other immigrants and their homeland. I want them to love America and to be successful and productive here. That is our country's tradition and one of the things that has made us so successful. I worry that we are losing sight of that.


Posted by Jon Parsons
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 19, 2020 at 11:52 am

Jon Parsons is a registered user.

With respect to Palo Alto Resident's concerns, we may all hope that the Communist leadership soon opens up the mainland to those many free and easily accessible means of communications we here in America share so vigorously. It would be like a thousand flowers blooming and would better level the playing field for our stateside companies - now so willing its seems to kowtow to the renminbi.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 19, 2020 at 12:18 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "...assimilate like they should. It’s okay to practice their culture but lack of knowing the majority language is divisive."

^ Concurring...but I'm not sure if 'majority language' proficiency is divisive from a political standpoint. It can most certainly can be from various cultural & educational reference points.

It can also be 'socially' divisive IF one is unable to communicate clearly & effectively with the MAJORITY of one's new habitat.

As far as language assimilation goes, it's understandable that a 1st generation of immigrants might have some problems/issues adapting to a new 'native' language or culture but there is absolutely no excuses for subsequent generations to repeat the process.

As far as cultural assimilation goes, it's totally acceptable to embrace one's native/ethnic background at family, social & church gatherings BUT it should not be forced upon the populace of one's new country of residence as it's no different than a group of American expatriots wanting to impose their traditional American values & practices on a native population of another country...including language, religion, education, politics & whatnot.

For all new arrivals wishing to stick around...it's probably advisable to assimilate ASAP or risk sticking out unnecessarily.


Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2020 at 2:50 pm

Anne is a registered user.

Have recently been editing my uncle's State Department memoir, in which he discusses the concept of diplomatic reciprocity. For far too long, and especially under Xi Jinping, the U.S. has allowed the PRC way too much latitude to use our open system against us, as it actively undermines our democracy. I'm not a supporter of the current occupant, but I do think we should reciprocate in the U.S., China's restrictions on American companies operating in China. As the article said, WeChat is "known to be a major vehicle for Chinese state propaganda."
TenCent is allowed to operate unhindered, right here in Palo Alto. Why are we allowing that when our tech giants don't have the same reciprocity in Xi's China? Never mind these apps scooping up data on American citizens -


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2020 at 4:26 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "the American Civil Liberties Union contends that the ban on WeChat is a violation of the First Amendment and reflects 'Trump's xenophobic and racist agenda.'"

> ""WeChat is "known to be a major vehicle for Chinese state propaganda."

^ Do foreign operatives with off-site servers also have 1st Amendment rights in America?

Banning Tik Tok (pending an Oracle purchase) was probably a good move as well.

The ACLU should consider focusing more on civil rights violations of American citizens in America rather than devoting it's energies on China and other parts of the world.






Posted by Educator
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2020 at 5:17 pm

Educator is a registered user.

Trump has sure made xenophobia acceptable based on these comments.


Posted by TS Member
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2020 at 6:23 pm

TS Member is a registered user.

There are many US apps that are mostly blocked/banned in China:
Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc...
As much as I don't like Trump or even many of the above apps, I don't understand why there is no reciprocity in this area, and why it would be so "shameful"to ban WeChat in the US when Facebook and WhatsApp are banned in China, for example.


Posted by PA resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2020 at 6:24 pm

PA resident is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] Debra Cen and Monica Yeung Arima invited Palo Alto Weekly owner Bill Johnson into four different WeChat groups in February. It has been over 7 months, and Bill is still in all these groups, making many members uncomfortable. There is a monthly post in these groups, but it has been totally ignored. Below is the post:

@Bill Johnson This is a neighborhood WeChat group (not PACPC/WizChinese WeChat group). We are a group of Chinese Americans who communicate mostly in Chinese. You can probably understand that some of us are not comfortable having the media in the group all the time. The PACPC leaders invited you into different groups without asking anybody in the group first. I am not sure if you are reaching out the same way to other communities – Indian, Korean, Japanese, & etc. Also, you are welcome to set up meetings as you mentioned, but staying in multiple WeChat groups is a little imposing to some of us. Can you please consider not being in so many groups at once? Some of us feel like we have no place to talk freely. Thank you!


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 19, 2020 at 7:07 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "Trump has sure made xenophobia acceptable based on these comments."

^ The last time I checked, 'phobia' means 'fear of' as in hydrophobia (i.e. a symptom of rabies).

Over the years, this particular 'ending' has been used/misused by the PC police in order to indict a perceived sense of distaste for various practices and/or ethnicities which is essentially misleading & innacurate at best.

Disdain or distrust are far better semantic alternatives...regardless of one's political leanings and/or personal preferences.


Posted by Educator
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2020 at 10:52 pm

Educator is a registered user.

By your logic, does homophobia mean fear of gay people?

We know (and can easily look up in the dictionary) that it does not. In several dictionary definitions of xenophobia, the words “distaste for” and “dislike” appear.

I would argue that xenophobia and homophobia both come from some kind of inner fear of things that are different.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 20, 2020 at 7:23 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "By your logic, does homophobia mean fear of gay people?"

^ In response to your query...perhaps not so much a fear but rather a disdain by those who view certain practices as either peculiar or in violation of their religous faiths.

As far as xenophobia goes...it is a sense
of distrust and/or contempt predicated on various recurrent incidents (i.e. cyber spying, trade/military secret theft, global flu bugs, and the ongoing perception of the PRC's massive economic wealth & manufacturing successes via the exploitation of cheap and/or slave labor etc.).

As FDR once said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" and while we are at it, we might as well add Walt Kelly into the mix..."We have met the enemy & he is us."

America must become more self-reliant &
in doing so, we will become less reliant on the PRC for just about everything.


Posted by PAH
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 20, 2020 at 8:19 am

PAH is a registered user.

Gunn is notorious for having a WeChat parent group to share tiger parenting stories on what summer programs, ECs, etc. are best to get into the top colleges. It creates a bunch of copycat kids and stimulates an unhealthy competitive environment. Supposedly there are government spies in the group as well. The community will be very well served if this were to end. The group creates division in the school community and is partly responsible for perpetuating stereotypes among the students and making them feel superior, different or separate from other racial groups.


Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 20, 2020 at 10:55 am

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

To me this feels targeted. We know that Facebook had a huge negative influence on the 2016 elections, even though Facebook is owned and operated right here in Silicon Valley. Is Trump going to shut down Facebook also? Probably not, because he is able to pay to control it.

I'm guessing that Trump could not figure out how to control WeChat, so he opted to turn it off. That does not feel right to me. Speech will continue, only now it will continue in channels that are less visible.

I recognize that WeChat has some negative aspects, but so does Facebook. The response to speech is more speech -- that is why the ACLU objects to the shutdown, and also why I do.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 20, 2020 at 11:47 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "As much as I don't like Trump or even many of the above apps, I don't understand why there is no reciprocity in this area, and why it would be so "shameful"to ban WeChat in the US when Facebook and WhatsApp are banned in China, for example."

> "I'm guessing that Trump could not figure out how to control WeChat, so he opted to turn it off. "

^ All things considered...non-English speaking expatriates from Asia will have a minimal impact on the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

The primary electoral targets for 2020 are American citizens encompassing the White, African-American, Hispanic, blue collar worker, and women voter blocs.

Asian & Native American voters (due to their smaller numbers) rarely have an impact on national election outcomes which is why the majority of presidential candidates focus on the larger groups.

The same can be said of voters in Puerto Rico, Guam & American Samoa...all insignificant in terms of 'the big picture'.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 20, 2020 at 1:10 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Makes sense to stop it if it is a threat to U.S. national security - DON’T you agree?


Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 20, 2020 at 4:07 pm

iSez is a registered user.

Why is it acceptable for China to ban Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. but U.S. cannot do the same? This isn't a racist issue. Trump is not xenophobic, he is trying to protect our country. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 21, 2020 at 9:01 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "Makes sense to stop it if it is a threat to U.S. national security - DON’T you agree?"

^ So does exercising some discretion when/if purchasing an inexpensive gray market 'Made in China' smartphone (Android) .

One's personal security and privacy is also important & embedded spyware has been found on many of them.


Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 21, 2020 at 9:07 am

Me 2 is a registered user.

"To me this feels targeted. "

Never thought I'd hear someone be such a WeChat apologist. And to equivocate Facebook and WeChat is downright ridiculous.

The worst that you could say about FB is that it neglects the responsibility that comes with the power of its platform.

WeChat is an active tool to spread disinformation by the Chinese Communist Party. In fact all Chinese technology companies owe their allegiance to the Xi and the CCP or they will be shut down.

That's the way of the Premier Xi.

"I'm guessing that Trump could not figure out how to control WeChat, so he opted to turn it off. That does not feel right to me. "

We have someone who actually believes Trump conspiracy nonsense running for our City Council?

I think you need to diversify your reading material.

Wake up to reality. The CCP is not your friend, unless of course, you're looking for funding from dubious sources.


Posted by bill1940
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 21, 2020 at 11:47 am

bill1940 is a registered user.

There is zero evidence that WeChat is a security threat. Pure and illegal behavior by the current DC administration. I know what I'm taking about. I've been a computer scientist for more than 50 years. "Show me the source code !"

We are a multi-lingual, multi-cultural society. And, clearly the vast majority of immigrants speak English and often much, much better than the average American. Yet, their families who do not live here only speak their maternal language. This attempt is clearly a violation of the 1st amendment which the vast majority of Americans have never read.

Immigrants are a significant part of what drives our economy across the employment spectrum. Any one who is either a native Californian, has worked in a University such as Stanford or UC Berkeley, or lives in Silicon Valley clearly understands this.

Let's continue to welcome immigrants; be kind; and show respect to all of America's residents independently of their national origins, race, religion or political beliefs.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 21, 2020 at 11:48 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

Title > "As U.S. bans WeChat, local Chinese Americans face loss of tool that's become integral to their lives"

^ All things considered....the tragic LOSSES and current encumbrances attributable to Covid-19 illnesses (and related deaths), prolonged domestic economic/residential hardships, and minimalized attendance protocols at larger public gatherings imposed upon American citizens far outweighs any and all of the so-called cyber-related sacrifices allegedly being endured by countless non-citizen immigrants unable to 'web-chat' with others back in the homeland.




Posted by US National Security
a resident of Triple El
on Sep 21, 2020 at 12:20 pm

US National Security is a registered user.

I have long been bewildered how people feel comfortable using an app that most certainly is used for private data collection, monitoring, profiling etc. by the not-so-democratic Chinese government.
Does anyone doubt that there is a government "file" on each and every WeChat user on their contacts, contents of their messages, calls, places they frequented, goods/services they purchased, money they paid etc.?
How do some people feel comfortable knowing this?
Or are they naive enough to not know?


Posted by US National Security
a resident of Triple El
on Sep 21, 2020 at 12:23 pm

US National Security is a registered user.

@bill1940
-> There is zero evidence that WeChat is a security threat.
=> How do you know? Have you seen the source code?

-> Show me the source code!
=> Well, you cannot because the Chinese government will not allow you.


Posted by Ardan Michael Blum
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 21, 2020 at 2:22 pm

Ardan Michael Blum is a registered user.

In the heart of Silicon Valley I would expect (amazed frankly) that someone would forget to write (either in the article itself or in the comments) something rather obvious (that seems to have been totally un-stated / no doubt intentionally) by those advocating a ban, namely: That what it is being discussed here is not an app but the ability for the NSA to get into the app without detection.


Posted by Ardan Michael Blum
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 21, 2020 at 4:53 pm

Ardan Michael Blum is a registered user.

Obvious but maybe not obvious solutions include ... 1: Costly version is to get a non-North America phone contract and work it in roaming to use the app (disclaimer - check with a security expert prior to doing this). Or 2: Use Web Link (disclaimer - check with a security expert prior to using this) and then run the app in a full TOR mode (better than TOR itself in my view).


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 21, 2020 at 5:04 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "To me this feels targeted. "

> "WeChat is an active tool to spread disinformation by the Chinese Communist Party. In fact all Chinese technology companies owe their allegiance to the Xi and the CCP or they will be shut down."

> " what it is being discussed here is not an app but the ability for the NSA to get into the app without detection."

^ Chances are the NSA & PRC intelligence communities are both monitoring the site.

Nothing on the internet is private...just ask Google & Microsoft.


Posted by Ardan Michael Blum
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 21, 2020 at 5:10 pm

Ardan Michael Blum is a registered user.

3/3: The other way to keep using your favorite app within the United States is to vote the idiot in power out of office.


Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2020 at 7:06 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

Every comment I see here on Town Square that is made by Rebecca Eisenberg convinces me more and more that she would never get my vote. Her vocal stance on Foothills Park was the first thing I had a major disagreement with. And now the knee-jerk accusation of racism, either in the reporting by the Weekly or the comments on the reporting, hard to tell which she criticized.


Posted by sophie
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2020 at 10:38 pm

sophie is a registered user.

I am a WeChat user, because it is a free tool to communicate with my friends in mainland China. However, some peculiar thing I noticed is that most of the articles/messages floating around in WeChat are pro Chinese Communist Party and anti America, messages are constantly censored and deleted by Admin if they are not fitting above narrative, even users account are removed or suspended if Admin decide this user created or forwarded message not fitting above narrative. Misinformation were circulated, For example, A few articles blaming US initiated COVID-19 and released to world can be found since March. Those are my experience with WeChat. Just for your information.


Posted by Me
a resident of Ohlone School
on Sep 22, 2020 at 1:24 am

Me is a registered user.

@Ardan Michael Blum: And vote for the other candidate who has one foot in the grave? The lesser of the two evils is "the idiot in power". Get the popcorn ready for the debate next Tuesday, it's gonna be fun.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 22, 2020 at 9:39 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "...most of the articles/messages floating around in WeChat are pro Chinese Communist Party and anti America,"

^ Not surprising.

In addition...and over the past weekend, the PRC flew 40 warplanes into disputed Taiwanese airspace as a show of force. Taiwanese F-18s intercepted them and the PRC justified the flights based on it's alleged sovereignty over Taiwan.

Meanwhile PRC border conflicts continue with India in the Himalayas, PRC sovereignty is being forced upon Tibet, and the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement is under siege.

Not exactly friendship material between conflicting factions...maybe POTUS45 can resolve matters as he did in the Middle East and earn a third Nobel Peace Prize nomination.


Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2020 at 11:30 pm

Longtime Resident is a registered user.

WeChat is more than just a chat room. It has created a Chinese sub-culture for newer arrivals. It allows Mandarin speaking immigrants to keep power amongst themselves, and to avoid dealing with non-Mandarin speakers. It makes assimilation into host countries unnecessary by enabling them to continue living their “Chinese-Way”, but in a nicer host country. It allows mainland Chinese to be exploited by immigration consultants, education consultants, and investment schemes abroad (like EB-5, and various student visas).
Chinese use WeChat pay or Alipay to pay restaurant bills, grocery bills, and transfer money (more than just the occasional “red packet”) to and from China, and support Mandarin speaking businesses from doctors, movers, contractors, realtors, title companies, and tutors who cater exclusively to Mandarin speakers. There is no way to know if prices are discounted for Mandarin speakers using the app.

WeChat forums can and have been responsible for influencing elections.
In 2018, Palo Alto Chinese parents used Wechat to support one school board candidate over another.
In Maryland, Lily Qi admitted that she won the election for state legislature by using the WeChat app to gain the support and votes from the Chinese community.

WeChat is also used by Chinese students to cheat in school. WeChat's most popular advertisers are academic advisors, consultants, and ghost writers. These are people who (for the right price) will take your standardized tests for you, or direct you to specific testing sites where cheating is easier (specific countries). You can also hire people to ghost write anything for you - from high school term papers to a thesis. WeChat is the place to find and buy needed references, and hire others to peer review your research.


Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2020 at 11:45 pm

Longtime Resident is a registered user.

In January and early February when the virus was spreading across China, people in China used WeChat to warn their own Mandarin speaking friends and family in other countries to buy up all the N95 face masks, surgical masks, PPE, rice, hand sanitizers, and other necessities - triggering global shortages and panic. Across the world, Chinese were the first people seen buying massive quantities of 3M N95 masks, disinfectants, rice, and other necessities at western stores - like Costco, Target, Lowes, and Home Depots.
Supplies vanished from Canadian and American shelves before people understood the seriousness of this virus.
Chinese outside of the mainland who were forewarned of the virus did not alert or warn their host countries or non-Chinese friends about the impending virus.
They used it to gain control of commodities for themselves.

The publicity stunt that WizChinese conducted regarding the face masks only exposed how connected they were to the right people in their communist homeland.

It is unfair to have an organization in our community which is directly connected to the Chinese government, and has been used to gain control over people who they view as inferior and easily taken advantage of (US- the non-Mandarin speaking American people).
WeChat is counter-productive to assimilation into American culture.

Even before it became WizChinese, many parents in the community felt it was unfair for the Palo Alto Chinese Parents Club who classify themselves as a nonprofit – to convert themselves over to their own self-serving entity. I don't consider helping wealthy Chinese migrants find the right realtors, banks, title companies, contractors, schools, and dodgy academic consultants as being helpful - especially when you are charging a fee or accepting kickbacks. If this is not the case, then do us a bigger service and shut down your operation so Chinese can integrate and assimilate naturally without the aid of your "non-profit".

The students and parents have mentioned that using this app creates a larger divide at our schools and in the community. We had fewer problems before the invention of apps like WeChat. Perhaps some of my old Chinese-American schoolmates can add to this. I know a handful of you are still around.
I would like to hear your thoughts.


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