Tencent’s WeChat said on Tuesday it is temporarily suspending registration of new users in China as it works to comply with “relevant laws and regulations,” the latest Chinese firm to face regulatory scrutiny in the world’s largest internet market.
In a social media post, Tencent said it is “upgrading” its security technology to align with all relevant laws and regulations and while this process in underway “registration of new Weixin (WeChat’s Chinese app) personal and official accounts has been temporarily suspended.”
“Registration services will be restored after the upgrade is complete, which is expected in early August,” said WeChat, which has amassed over 1.2 billion monthly active users in China as of earlier this year.
It’s not immediately clear which law WeChat is citing in its announcement but the move comes amid a broad crackdown on tech firms by Chinese regulators. The crackdown has wiped billions of dollars in market cap for Chinese firms in recent weeks and many high-profile global investors including SoftBank are impacted by it.
This is the first time WeChat, which operates as a super-app in China, has had to take a step of this kind in more than a decade. In addition to offering a messaging service, Weixin also allows users to make online payments and access a range of financial services.
(In other markets, it’s a different story. Donald Trump had signed an order to ban transactions with TikTok and WeChat in the U.S. last year. President Joe Biden revoked and replaced those actions last month.)
Some analysts believe that the Chinese government is concerned about the growing influence of tech firms in the country and also the privacy of its citizens’ data.
Earlier this month, China’s cybersecurity regulator ordered ride-hailing giant app Didi to stop signing up new users. That move had come days after Didi’s $4.4 billion initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. Didi’s app, which has been pulled from the app stores in China, illegally collected personal data of its customers, the regulator accused.
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