Home > News > International Chinese activists lament the end of the last major US social media platform in China: LinkedIn A Chinese activist is dismayed LinkedIn in China will shut down later this year, after internet rules were tightened by Beijing. 22 October 2021

When Chinese human rights activist Zhou Fengsuo first joined LinkedIn 10 years ago, he used the platform for professional networking.

But after leaving a finance job in 2017, the social media site became the main way he connected with people in China – from his home in the United States.

"[LinkedIn] allows me to communicate directly with people inside the wall," he said, referring to China's 'Great Firewall '.

"It is very precious."

Mr Zhou, a student leader of the Tiananmen Square protests who was exiled from China, said LinkedIn also allowed him to cast a light on China's human rights issues.

In 2019, his public advocacy captured the attention of LinkedIn management.

His account was blocked for several hours, meaning it could not be viewed in China.

Mr Zhou said the company later told him the block had been a "mistake".

He believes the censorship was due to pressure from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Mr Zhou said China wants to make critics "invisible" on the country's internet.

"The CCP has been using the great firewall to decouple itself from the international community on the internet and force these companies to obey its rules," he said. LinkedIn was always going to be censored in China, expert says

Despite the censorship, Mr Zhou is one of several Chinese activists concerned by the news LinkedIn in China will shut down later this year , after internet rules were tightened by Beijing.

It is the only major US social media platform still operating in China.

Google pulled its search engine in 2010, while other US social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China.

Mr Zhou is worried the closure of LinkedIn allows the government to further tighten control over internet content and cut people in China off from the rest of the world.

LinkedIn's parent company Microsoft said in a blog post in mid-October that it has faced a "significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China".

LinkedIn will replace its localised platform in China with a new app called InJobs, which has some career networking features, but "will not include a social feed or the ability to share posts or articles".

A LinkedIn spokesperson said the company would "continue to have a strong presence in China" and is "excited" to launch InJobs later this year.

Barney Tan, an associate professor from the University of Sydney, said the social media side of LinkedIn was "always going to be heavily monitored and potentially subject to censorship".

"By transforming itself into a jobs portal, LinkedIn sheds its riskiest business while maintaining a commitment to free speech in the eyes of the West," he said.

Dr Tan said Chinese government crackdowns on other tech giants like Didi, Meituan and Pinduoduo showed entire business models could be "outlawed without warning".

In March, Chinese regulators suspended LinkedIn's new user registrations for a month.

In May, they asked about 100 apps, including LinkedIn and Microsoft's Bing search engine, to overhaul their data collection and use. Chinese analyst trolled on LinkedIn after US media interviews

Liu Lipeng has also had a run-in with LinkedIn, after he became a vocal critic of censorship in China.

Mr Liu said he was not surprised at LinkedIn's decision to close the current platform in China.

He said Microsoft had failed to modify LinkedIn to fit China's strict internet censorship regulations.

Mr Liu used his first LinkedIn account to contact foreign journalists and do anonymous interviews from China.

He was familiar with censorship systems in China: in the past he had worked for Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, to manually detect and delete sensitive words and content.

Little did he know then that his name would also become a censored word on Weibo.

The suppression came after he moved to the United States in 2020 with his family because of the pandemic.

He then began using his real name in media interviews criticising China.

"After the interviews, my LinkedIn exploded and all sorts of malicious messages came in, even after I turned off all my private messages," Mr Liu said.

"It was very, very scary."

He said patriotic Chinese internet users also tried to get his private information through LinkedIn and release it publicly, but they did not succeed.

"I was also afraid that the Chinese government could use the data to track me down," he said.

After being trolled on LinkedIn, Mr Liu deleted his account over safety concerns.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said China was "actively committed to creating a favourable business environment for foreign investors".

"China is firmly committed to expanding its openness to the outside world and will, as always, welcome enterprises from all countries, including the United States, to invest and do business in China, providing a market-oriented, rule of law and international business environment," he said last week.

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