A leading Maoist ideologue publicly announced that he plans to seek wider support to lobby the government to force foreign capital off the shareholder lists of Chinese social media companies.
Zhang Hongliang, a professor at Beijing's Minzu University of China, said on his WeChat account on Saturday that he is preparing to sue Chinese Internet titan Tencent for yielding to commercial pressure to "arbitrarily" block public WeChat posts.
Tencent - WeChat's parent company, whose largest shareholder is MIH Group, a subsidiary of South African media group Naspers - recently threatened to shut down Zhang's public account when he released a post denouncing Chinese specialty beverage maker JDB Group Ltd for defaming war hero Qiu Shaoyun, Zhang said.
Qiu, who died at the age of 26 in 1952 in the Korean War (1950-53), has been lauded by the Chinese government as a war hero who chose to stay motionless and burn to death in a fire rather than move and betray the position of hundreds of fellow Chinese soldiers.
"They deleted my post and sent a long report to me, saying they had received a protest from JDB, found that my accusations were 'untrue' and 'violated their rules,' and would close my account if I wrote a similar post again," he told the Global Times.
Many people share Zhang's worries, especially after posts and comments criticizing actress-turned-director Zhao Wei for inviting a suspected Taiwan separatist to act in her new movie - including posts by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China - quickly disappeared from Weibo and major news portals, according to news site globalview.cn.
"Netizens were shocked. Capital is so powerful that they can block any kind of voice they dislike," globalview.cn said in a commentary on Friday.
Zhang said he hopes more people will join him in proposing that WeChat and Weibo be operated by companies other than Tencent and Sina.
"The importance of Weibo and WeChat is no less than that of an army. It concerns power in political discourse and national security. We mustn't lose control to foreigners or separatist capitalists," Zhang noted.