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

Original article from CNN.

Hong Kong (CNN)Students and faculty at the University of California (UC) have been warned not to use messaging apps and social media while visiting China, for fear their communications could be used against them by the country’s law enforcement agencies.

The guidance from one of the biggest school networks in the US is the latest concern to be raised over Western travel to China following the December 1 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of US authorities.

Meng, who was detained in Vancouver and is currently on bail, is facing possible extradition to the US on suspicion of violating US sanctions against Iran.

Since her arrest, multiple Canadians have been detained in China and two — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — are being investigated on suspicion of “activities that endangered China’s national security,” charges which supporters say are politically motivated.The UC guidance also appeared to reference the case of Paul Whelan, a US citizen arrested in Russia last month on suspicion of espionage.

“While the use of WhatsApp, WeChat and like messaging apps are legal in China, we have seen in the latest espionage charge of a US citizen in Russia where the use of WhatsApp has been cited in his espionage charges,” read an email seen by CNN.

“Our concern here is the possibility China could use this condition similarly against western travelers to levy charges or as an excuse to deny departure. We recommend not using these messaging apps in China at this time.

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

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