Late Tuesday night certain circles on the Chinese internet were abuzz with the news that Facebook had registered a subsidiary in Hangzhou. As the story spread into the English-language sphere, NBC quoted a Facebook spokesperson as saying that the new entity would be an “innovation hub”.
But then the news started disappearing from WeChat and other Chinese internet portals, and the record on China’s National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System website also appeared to have been taken down.
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Most of the original WeChat posts that featured screenshots of the NECIPS’s listing have now been deleted. Even major tech news outlets seemingly had their news censored; 36Kr had their entire morning briefing round-up post from Wednesday deleted, apparently because it contained a mention of Facebook registering in Hangzhou (this morning’s round-up made no mention of the incident or of Facebook).
And now, it seems the actual registration on the NECIPS website has also been removed. A screenshot widely circulated online shows the original Hangzhou listing is now missing when users search for 脸书 lianshu, the Hangzhou entity’s Chinese name, a literal translation of face book.
The New York Times has reported that “the approval has been withdrawn, according to a person familiar with the matter”. A news report on iFeng.com, one of the few Chinese media outlets to run a story on the issue, was headlined “‘Lianshu’ registration information taken down, has Facebook’s road into China hit another bump?”
So far, Facebook has not commented publicly on the developments.
This doesn’t mean that the project is necessarily dead in the water of course, but it clearly represents a significant setback in the company’s plans to finally gain a foothold in mainland China, nearly a decade on from seeing its flagship site blocked in the country.
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