Months after its messaging app was blocked in China, the company behind Line is “optimistic” it can bring the service back to the country in the near future, in spite of the government’s growing censorship of the Internet.
“We are very optimistic about reopening our service,” said Shin Jungho, CEO of Line Plus on Wednesday. “I cannot open today. I just want to say in the near future, I think we can open our service again.”
Shin made the comments on the sidelines of the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China, where the nation’s government has gathered tech executives from across the globe.
China has said it welcomes all Internet sites to the country, but only if they follow the rules. This includes obeying China’s demands on censorship. Line did not immediately comment on whether it planned to abide by the government rules.
Shin said he didn’t now why China blocked the Line messaging app back in July, or how the company would get the ban lifted. But company executives indicated that Line had many users in China who were waiting for the service to return.
“They really love to talk through Line and they love to use Line stickers, so we are very optimistic about our operations,” said Kang Hyunbin, vice president for Line Plus.
South Korea-based Line Plus, which is a subsidiary of Line Corp., was established last year to accelerate the messaging app’s global expansion. The product is quite popular in Japan, where it has 54 million users, and it has also gained a sizeable following in the U.S., with 25 million users.
Line came to mainland China under the name “Lianwo.” In July the country’s censors began disrupting the service, amid a massive pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong.
Although China never comments on why it blocks certain services, the government typically cuts access to products when they risk spreading anti-government news or photos. Other foreign sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have all been blocked in the country.
Line declined to say how many users it has in the country. But since the blocking in July, thousands of Chinese users have complained on Line’s local Sina Weibo account in the country.
Recently, China has been blocking more foreign Internet services from appearing in the country. In late May, it began blocking all Google services, and starting last week it began disrupting websites connected to U.S. content delivery network EdgeCast Networks.