WeChat, but I can’t

SHANGHAI–It wasn’t until shortly before I left for CES Asia that I realized showing up here without a WeChat account would mark me as some kind of hick. I’m now about to head home, still bereft of a WeChat account. But I tried!

WeChat, for those as uninitiated as I once was, is the service AOL Instant Messenger became in an alternate universe. Tencent’s messaging app not only connects almost one billion users in real time, it functions as a wallet, a business card, a news feed and a great many other things.

So I downloaded the Android app, plugged in my Google Voice number–as the work number on my business card, it’s what I ordinarily use without a problem on phone-linked messaging systems.

But what worked in WhatsApp and Signal did not in WeChat. After creating an account and entering the security code texted to my number, I got this error message:

“This WeChat account has been confirmed of suspicious registration in batch or using plugins and is blocked. Continue to use this account by tapping OK and applying for an account unblock.”

Whoops. I tapped through to a “Self-service unblock allowed” screen, tapped its  “Read and accept” button. That presented me with CAPTCHA prove-you’re-not-a-robot interface that had me tap the letters in one graphic that matched those in another.

But after going through that, I still couldn’t log in. Instead, the app told me to get another WeChat user to verify my existence on their phone. I’ve now tried that a few times with both U.S.-based and local users, and after each try the app has offered a vague error message about the other person not being eligible to vouch for me.

After some further research, I think the problem is my using a Google Voice number. That possibility goes unmentioned in WeChat’s English-language online help, but a Quora post reports that Tencent quashed that option years ago.

And thinking about it, it does make sense: I can’t imagine that the Chinese government would look fondly on any communications service that allows people to use a number likely to be untethered from a billable address.

When I get back to the States, I will see if I can’t get WeChat to work with some kind of a burner number still attached to a real account–maybe from a loaner phone. Otherwise, I guess I’ll have to set up WeChat with my “real” phone number. I can’t stay illiterate in this service forever, right?


8 thoughts on “WeChat, but I can’t

  1. Pingback: CES Asia shows where consumer tech is heading in one of its dominant markets | | Arabic Press release - gulfnews

  2. hi im having the same issue?

    i have tried the self-service method and ask other users
    i still cant access my account.

    and still dont know how if ever you found out the method hope you could reply back thanks

  3. I have the same issue and I’m using my “real” mobile number from United States. I’ve downloaded legit app from Apple Store directly. The only time I use Wechat is to chat with my friends in China. I don’t even post anything or use it in any other way. I’m not sure why I was blocked at all. I’ve used the self service through phone like what you used. I’ve also used their recovery website, which end up is a dead link after I filled all the info and hit submit. https://support.wechat.com/cgi-bin/mmsupport-bin/readtemplate?t=weixin_unlock_self&step=0

    NOTHING WORKED!!! I’ve written email to them but their customer service always seem non-exist. I doubt I can get anyone from Wechat to help me out. And their self-service is full of bugs. Please let me know if you have other method. Thanks.

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