Recently, citizens in Zhejiang province said that calls to other countries and Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan were terminated. Screenshots of the announcement from provincial mobile service provider China Mobile Zhejiang were also shared.
According to state media CCTV, China Mobile Zhejiang confirmed the call block. The service provider justifies that the measure was to tackle international scams. Citizens can still make phone calls or send text messages to these areas, provided they register for the feature to be unlocked.
Zhejiang Telecom and Zhejiang Unicom had not implemented a similar call blocking. According to Finance Sina, Zhejiang and other provinces have stopped messages from overseas, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan beforehand.
On April 26, Henan Mobile, Henan Unicom, and Henan Telecom jointly said that they would deactivate messages from these areas by May 7. It also cited scams as the reason. And users must present their ID cards to request reactivation.
Similar announcements were made by Jiangxi Telecom, Jiangxi Mobile, and Jiangxi Unicom on March 21.
Liaoning province imposed the call block on January 25, Guizhou province last November, and Zhejiang on August.
It is believed that these provinces are part of a pilot program, and the entire country would later adopt a similar policy.
Current affairs commentator Lu Nan told Radio Free Asia on May 16 that the blockade could have two underlying purposes.
He said that, on the one hand, officials could reduce the loss of foreign exchange as much as possible by stopping text messages or calls from overseas. This isolation may deter mainlanders from seeking to leave China or planning to escape the country by traveling aboard.
On the other hand, via this new policy, the authorities can collect personal and overseas relationship information as people are now required to register for international calls and messaging.
Guo Tao, a media person from Jiangxi province, told RFA that cutting telecommunications from inland and outsiders is only a part of an entire isolation policy.
Guo said there might be no good prospects for the Chinese to resist government control, citing how Shanghai enforced its lockdown. He said that there is no other way unless the international community helps the Chinese people.
The Chinese government has also kept an eye on messaging software, and content that criticizes the government is outlawed. RFA reported from a computer engineer that the authorities can still read their conversations even if circumvention software is used.