Indian Wechat users said that they have been blocked from the messaging super app starting Saturday, potentially a move from its owner, Chinese tech giant Tencent, to comply with India’s June 29 ban of 59 apps from China.

Why it matters: In addition to messaging, Wechat is an essential payments provider and news platform for Chinese expats in India and people interested in China.

  • The sudden loss of Wechat maroons Chinese nationals living in India, employees and students of Chinese institutions, and other users suddenly cut off from their primary method of communication with mainland China.
  • Wechat users in India also lost access to message and document history, as well as all money stored in their Wechat Wallets. 

Read more: Chinese tech giants have tens of billions at stake in India

Details: Only users who registered Wechat accounts with an Indian phone number were logged out, according to a report from Chinese state-owned media outlet The Global Times. However, Indian users told TechNode they continue to experience difficulty using the app despite registering with a Chinese phone number, switching SIM cards, and using a virtual private network (VPN). 

  • India’s app ban appears to rely on cooperation from Chinese app developers to block users from accessing these apps.
  • TechNode contributor Sowmiya Ashok received text messages, but could not reply or use other features of the app. Fellow contributor Hamsini Hariharan registered her Wechat account with a Chinese phone number and was able to log in with a VPN, but was logged out every 10 minutes. 
  • Users reported seeing an error message when attempting to log in: “Pursuant to Indian law we are unable to offer you Wechat at this time. We value each of our users, and data security and privacy are of utmost importance to us. We are engaging with relevant authorities and hope to be able to resume service in the future.”
Wechat error messages received by Indian users
Wechat error messages received by Indian users: The account has been inactive for too long [left], internet failure [center], and the error message citing Indian law [right]. (Image credit: Hamsini Hariharan)

Read more: India ban on Chinese apps explained: Who, how, what now?

Context: Wechat isn’t popular in India, where it has an estimated 6 million to 8 million monthly users as of 2015. Its value lies in easy communication with China.