By: SHI RuoshuiEdited by: Shameel Ibrahim

Society

Clubhouse users cash in on invitation codes in mainland China

The audio-chat social networking app, Clubhouse is offering users in mainland China a taste of free speech. One user, John Lam, stayed up till 3am listening to participants talk about Xinjiang, an often taboo subject on the mainland. “An ethnic minority user in America talked about his family members being arrested in Xinjiang, and participants constantly reminded each other about their personal safety,” Mr. Lam said. Launched last March, Clubhouse drew 5 million users within a month when it streamed The Lion King musical in December last year. After registering with a mobile phone number, users get an ID. But joining a chatroom is by invitation only. Another user has to send you an invitation code via SMS, and each account only gets to invite two others. Clubhouse is free outside the mainland. It is ranked the number one free app at the moment. But in the mainland, users are cashing in on the invitations. On the e-commerce platform, Taobao invitation codes are sold for around 100 yuan each. More than two dozen shops on Taobao are selling the codes, with one store getting nearly 200 sales on average everyday. On Weibo, a Twitter-like platform in the mainland, people bid for cheaper invitation codes. Some are available for around 45 yuan. Clubhouse is offering users outside China a glimpse inside the country. Cici Wang, 20, a mainland student studying in America, learned about the Taiwan earthquake while listening to a discussion in the Cross-Strait Youth chatroom. “It was a rare opportunity for people in the mainland to discuss freely on serious political topics with people from other regions or countries,” said Ms Wang. Nearly 800 people joined the chatroom to listen to young people across the Taiwan Strait share personal experiences, opinions on living conditions, women status and politics. Moderators …