India issues order banning over 200 gambling and loan apps, most with links to China: report

The Indian government on Sunday issued an order banning more than 200 foreign-based apps offering illegal gambling and loan services in a move to protect the country’s sovereignty. Most of them are related to China.

Based on multiple media reports, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has initiated the process of banning 138 gambling apps and 94 loan lending apps that allegedly contain material that harms India’s sovereignty.

Authorities said the apps were run from “offshore companies, including China,” posing a threat to India’s “economic stability,” local media outlet WION said. reportBorrowing the words of a person familiar with the situation.

The ministry has yet to reveal the names of the blocked apps.

The ban was prompted by an investigation by the Home Office following reports of suicides linked to the app. There were also complaints from users who claimed they were harassed for failing to repay loans they got from the app.

Some of these apps are reportedly run by Chinese who have hired Indians as directors, raising the annual interest rate on each loan to 3,000%.

Debtors who failed to repay their loans report receiving obscene messages and being threatened by app personnel that their photos will be defaced and distributed to their contacts.

Authorities also found that users installed these apps from third-party links or websites, as these apps cannot be downloaded on smartphones.

The ban is based on the Reserve Bank of India’s new regulations Last year, it required digital lenders to provide their customers with complete transparency and control when offering their goods through their digital platforms.

India takes cybersecurity ‘more seriously’

India began banning Chinese-made apps after a bloody skirmish with Chinese forces in the disputed Himalayan border region in June 2020 left 20 Indian soldiers dead. Since then, the country has banned 267 applications including her TikTok, Baidu and WeChat Work.

Last February, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs ordered a ban on 54 Chinese mobile applications that claim they can collect sensitive user data through cell phone cameras and microphones for espionage and surveillance purposes.

These apps range from mobile games to video chat and selfie camera apps from Chinese companies such as Tencent, Alibaba and NetEase. Some apps are clones or rebrands of apps banned by previous orders, according to local media reports.

The most popular app banned by the order is Free Fire, a battle royale shooter owned by Singapore-based gaming giant Sea. The company’s largest shareholder is Chinese tech giant Tencent.

“India is now taking cybersecurity more seriously because of its increasingly digital economy and the threat posed by Chinese apps and Chinese telecom equipment,” The Epoch Times last year.

India’s concerns about the security risks posed by Chinese technology cites Indian laws that force companies to cooperate with intelligence agencies, and that such applications could be spied on by China’s ruling party, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). When so asked, which is consistent with the concerns of U.S. officials and experts who have warned that it could be used in their activities.

Abhishek Darby, a research associate at the China Center for Analytical Strategy, a New Delhi-based think tank, told the Epoch Times that many of the apps that the Indian government has banned since 2020 are being sold under separate companies for the Indian market. Said it was re-released or renamed.

He pointed to Chinese ties in the banned Free Fire game app owned by Sea. The company was founded in Singapore by a Chinese-born founder who later became a Singaporean citizen.

Some may not be aware of this relationship, but the Free Fire example shows that “China has a huge consumer population, so it is clear that China is exploiting all loopholes to enter the Indian market. suggesting.”

According to Darby, the presence of Chinese apps in India gives the Chinese Communist Party an advantage, and while the Chinese market remains closed to foreign mobile apps, it investigates the Indian market and at the same time You can expose your population to espionage.

“China does not entertain foreign social media applications or other mobile apps in its own country. They are doing this to protect themselves from all forms of surveillance and espionage,” he said. .

Venus Upadhayaya contributed to this report.