Chinese UK professor says losing ‘WeChat’ would be losing a sense of community

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A Chinese professor at the University of Kentucky says losing the app ‘WeChat,’ an app commonly used to talk to family and friends in China, would be devastating for international students.

The app is safe for now; a judge in California blocked the U.S. government’s attempt to ban it.

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The Trump administration had ordered a ban on downloads of the app starting that would have started Sunday.

“My heart goes out to our international Chinese students and to their families,” says Professor Huajing Maske, director of the University of Kentucky’s Office of China Initiatives, says WeChat is more than just a social app for students.

“Not only is it the communication with home, far away, but within the United States, these international students they use WeChat as a support community platform,” says Maske.

She uses WeChat herself and says the app helps students find housing, food, social events, video chat, make payments, and more – all for free.

Maggie Favier is a recent University of Kentucky grad who studied abroad three times. She says it keeps her in contact with her friends, especially because platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are banned in China.

“Early in January, when the pandemic broke out over in China, I contacted them through WeChat because that’s my only mode of communication with them because there’s no other social media that we can share together,” says Favier.

The Trump administration moved to banned WeChat and TikTok because of fears that China was stealing U.S. citizen’s data.

A California judge blocked the move Sunday, saying there isn’t enough evidence to back the claim, and it raises questions regarding free speech.

Maske says she’s going to prepare for the possibility WeChat will be banned in the future, even if it can only help those around her.

“I’m trying to work, and as I said, find reliable sources at least for our students,” says Maske.