WeChat faces shutdown in Taiwan

Chinese technology giant Tencent may face penalties, including ceasing its business on the island, if Taiwanese authorities deem that it failed to properly register its popular messaging app WeChat.

Tencent could be forced to leave Taiwan, as a local regulator has said that its registration on the island does not cover its popular WeChat messaging service, local media Want China Times reported this week.

Taiwan's Investment Commission said on June 8 that although Tencent's Taiwan subsidiary applied as a Chinese (mainland) investor, its application failed to cover its WeChat messaging business, which currently has more than 6 million users on the island.

If WeChat is found to be involved in commercial activities that it failed to register properly, the Chinese company could face a penalty of up to NT$600,000 ($19,400), or even be asked to leave Taiwan, according to the report.

During a debate within Taiwan's top legislative body on June 8, the Investment Commission's executive secretary Chang Ming-bin said that although Tencent is a Hong Kong-listed company with its major shareholders comprising foreign investors, the technology firm is managed on the Chinese mainland and should, therefore, be regarded as a mainland entity.

Chang added that when Tencent applied to establish its Taiwan subsidiary via its Hong Kong unit in June 2012, it also failed to mention its WeChat business, according to the report.

WeChat was first released by Tencent in January 2011, and became extremely popular then, as Chinese people were also migrating from QQ instant messaging platforms on the desktop to smartphone-focused messaging apps at that time. The feature-rich WeChat outstrips WhatsApp and Line in various aspects, and has been widely accepted by users in Taiwan over the years.

Earlier this year, Taiwanese authorities demanded that Alibaba close down its online marketplace Taobao and Alibaba.com, claiming the Chinese e-commerce giant failed to apply for permits required for a Chinese mainland company to do business on the island.

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