For the last two weeks, Eden Chen had been glued to her WeChat. A resident of the Chinese coastal city of Wenzhou, Chen and her family had been told to stay indoors, sending only one member out every other day to buy groceries. WeChat, the ubiquitous social media app in China, became an indispensable channel for checking up on relatives, exchanging information about quarantine measures and even getting on a waiting list to order now-scarce face masks.
Then on the evening of Feb. 5, Chen’s WeChat account — along with thousands of other users’ accounts over the coming hours — was suddenly sealed off. Chen, who exclusively uses WeChat to communicate with people, lost contact with hundreds of friends and relatives.
“Is writing a few sentences about the lack of face masks now enough to get one’s account suspended?” said Chen. “I do not do anything to disrupt the country.” She also said she “sent around some official notices and state media stories regarding the [coronavirus] epidemic.”