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Overseas Skype callers lose access to China

Microsoft Corp. (Dreamstime/TNS)
May 21, 2023

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Microsoft said changes made by “local telecom operators” in China have blocked calls into the country on Skype, the tech giant’s internet communicationsservice.

RFA’s Mandarin Service reported on overseas Skype calls failing to work in China on Tuesday. 

Reporters for RFA and RFA Mandarin have been unable to connect to either landline or mobile devices in China with Skype. Operators of the service in China blamed “technical issues.”

Skype users in China have taken to the internet to complain about the problem, with one writing: “I can’t get through to my home. … I don’t know when it will be fixed… . It’s disgusting, it’s like this in China. It’s almost the same as North Korea.”

Microsoft said in a statement that it is “working to restore service to some customers who may have lost access to Skype in China due to changes made by local telecom operators.”

The company did not provide additional information.

China’s government has implemented a number of restrictions designed to control the flow of information into the country, including communications from sources outside its borders. 

The so-called “Great Firewall” of censors and software limits what Chinese citizens can see on the internet without virtual private networks, or VPNs.

A year ago, government telecommunication administrators began flagging, blocking and monitoring calls from abroad in many cities and provinces, RFA Mandarin has reported.

Skype is one of the few outside software communications tools China’s government allows to operate, although operating issues in China have previously surfaced. In 2017, Apple removed the Skype app from its App store in China.

Some callers, in particular reporters, favor Skype because it allows greater anonymity.  

App users don’t have to register their names with the service. Calls from U.S. cell phones may draw more attention from Chinese security officials. Plus, Skype is usually a cheaper option.