China's biggest mobile telecom provider, China Mobile, will block users in Zhejiang province from receiving international calls and text messages from May 20 in an attempt to fight scams, Sixth Tone reports.
China Mobile in Zhejiang is the first to impose restrictions on incoming international calls, but from as early as July 2021 telecom providers in Henan, Jiangxi, Liaoning and Guangxi provinces stopped users from receiving overseas text messages.
Zhejiang residents have until May 20 to activate international calls and texts, while Global Times reports that all users can register to receive overseas telecommunications after the deadline, free of charge.
Some China Mobile users in Zhejiang received a text message asking them to activate international call services, which they can do so by replying to said text.
China Mobile in Zhejiang said that any users who have not yet been notified will be at a later date.
Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance was reported by Global Times as touting the measures as a shield to reduce the chances of consumers being cheated by telecom fraud.
The Ministry of Public Security said that, as of November 2021, 370,000 telecom and network fraud cases have been thwarted, and over RMB300 billion intercepted.
In some major cities in China, telecom fraud accounts for over 50% of criminal cases.
Zhejiang province alone filed 65,000 telecommunication fraud crimes in 2021, creating a total loss of RMB3.897 billion and leading to 50,800 arrests.
Authorities have stated that more than half of telecom fraud in China comes from outside of the country.
The duration of the block on international calls and texts in the aforementioned provinces, or whether it will be extended to other places in China, remains unknown.
The move raised concerns in some quarters that China will become further disconnected from the rest of the world; China’s borders have been closed to international travel for over two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, as increasingly more people gain access to the internet, international calls and texts have become less relied on. That said, restriction of them is now one less way in which citizens can reach the outside world.
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