Brief suspension of Chinese diplomats’ Twitter accounts reveals ‘truth of Western freedom of speech’
Published: Apr 13, 2021 08:18 PM
Twitter Photo:VCG

Twitter Photo:VCG

Platform for freedom of speech or machine cracking down on pro-China narrative, Twitter's ban on accounts of the Chinese Consulate in Sydney and Cultural Counselor at the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan has been pilloried by netizens as "blatant censorship," who are concerned the platform may slap similar suppression on other accounts that run counter to the West's narrative. 

The Twitter account of the consulate was suspended on Monday with no specific reason, the consulate said in a statement, noting that they immediately contacted the platform and called for clarification and restoration.

The account was reactivated Tuesday morning.

Zhang Heqing, Cultural Counselor at the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, commented on the Sydney Consulate's account on Tuesday that "My account has the same experience. It was suspended yesterday morning. I applied for the lifting of the suspension and it was reactivated last night."

Twitter also did not provide an explanation for suspending Zhang's account. A source close to the matter told the Global Times that maybe the suspension of Zhang's account had something to do with his post of Xinjiang-related topics. 

The Global Times found out that both accounts, before they were suspended, tweeted or re-tweeted content that exposed Washington's use of topics about China's Xinjiang to blatantly interfere in China's domestic affairs, as well as serious US human rights violations.

The platform's move has prompted waves of criticism among netizens. On China's social media platform Sina Weibo, a widely circulated comment says that the incidents speak the "truth of Western freedom of speech: only rumors that disparage China are allowed on the platform, not truth about China."

A Twitter user also said that "The Twitter BLACKOUT of all pro-CHINA accounts has started……there's no NEUTRALITY anymore……"

Chen Hong, professor and director of the Australian Studies Center of East China Normal University, said Twitter's move is an "alarming sign." Targeting those two accounts may be just Twitter "testing the waters," said Chen, fearing more hostile actions against pro-China accounts may come. "The platform has ramped up their political interference on Chinese diplomatic organs, and has become a tailor of the pro-China narrative. People who speak good and truth about China should be shushed, they believe," said Chen. 

In January, Twitter took down a post from the Chinese embassy in Washington that said a study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uygur women in China's Xinjiang were being emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were being promoted.

This tweet came under attack from some US politicians and separatists from Xinjiang who continually pressured Twitter to delete the tweet. On January 9, the platform removed the tweet, saying it was "dehumanizing."

Shen Yi, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that China has "grown used to such tricks" since Twitter has blocked accounts of Chinese personnel and government bodies many times without giving specific reasons. 

"Twitter has become a 'dark box' for some anti-China political figures where they can selectively filter out opinions they disagree with, and manipulate public opinion that caters to their private interests," noted Shen. 

Although social media operators like Twitter and Facebook are run by private companies, they have long been tied to national interests like other US elites, and have become the tools for the interests of politicians, Shen added.