US President Donald Trump has tweeted energetically throughout his Asian tour so far, but in China he will likely be one of a select few to skirt the country’s ban on his cherished website.
The Twitter-happy president has fired off a slew of posts — on both domestic and international issues — since he started his trip in Japan and moved on to South Korea on Tuesday.
But when he lands in China on Wednesday, Trump will enter the so-called “Great Firewall” of online censorship that monitors people’s internet habits and blocks websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google.
Chinese can face fines or even jail time for unfavourable social media posts. Authorities have further tightened internet controls in recent months, shutting down celebrity gossip blogs and probing platforms for “obscenity”.
Asked whether Trump –- who will get red-carpet treatment during his state visit –- would be able to tweet, Chinese vice foreign minister Zheng Zeguang told reporters: “How President Trump communicates with the outside is not something you need to worry about.”
Trump, who has used an iPhone for Twitter posts, could use some options available to people in China to evade the Great Firewall — though US presidents in any case travel with their own sophisticated communications systems.
– ‘Trump can’t live without Twitter’ –
Web users can circumvent the firewall if they download a virtual private network (VPN) — software that allows people to surf the internet as if they were using a server in another country.
But Beijing mandated in January that all developers must obtain government licences to offer VPN software, raising concern it might ban them outright.
Foreign visitors can also access banned websites with their phones if they are in roaming mode — but only because the authorities currently allow it, according to experts.
Trump should be able to use roaming “but it depends on the policy of the (Chinese) government. If they chose not to allow you to (use roaming) then they can do it,” James Gong, a Chinese cyber law expert at Herbert Smith Freehills law firm, told AFP.
“But if you’re the president you should be able to do it. Donald Trump cannot live without Twitter,” Gong said.