BEIJING – China has 649 million people online, but they are drifting away from microblogging sites after a government crackdown on free speech.
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China's online population was already the world's largest. Of those counted in the government-backed China Internet Network Information Center's annual report released Tuesday, 557 million were using mobile devices.
The number of microblog users dropped in 2014 by 32 million to 249 million, a decline that shows the sites failed to recover from the 2013 crackdown that chilled discussion on China's Twitter-like sites. Meanwhile, newer products — especially the instant messaging service WeChat — are rapidly gaining popularity.
The report also says the number of users of mobile instant message services grew 17.8 percent to 508 million.