Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s account on a Chinese-owned social media platform, WeChat, seems to have been blocked and taken over. According to Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph on Monday, the account was also renamed.
Access to Morrison’s WeChat could not be established for months, the prime minister’s team told Senator James Paterson, chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
Morrison’s Wechat has 76,000 WeChat followers, who were notified that his account was renamed “Australian Chinese new life” earlier this month. Morrison’s profile picture was also removed. Fuzhou 985 Information Technology Co. Ltd now owns the account.
The account was taken out of the Australian government’s control, and the change was made without their knowledge.
Morrison’s office has no comment on the report on Monday.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman refused to comment at a news meeting on Monday, saying Morrison and Tencent were an issue.
WeChat is the most popular Chinese social platform with over 1 billion users, mainly in China. However, the Chinese communist regime often censors sensitive content on the platform.
Call for Boycott from Lawmakers
Senator James Paterson accused the Chinese Communist Party of censoring the prime minister before the May elections.
He said. “My view is given that WeChat is such a closely controlled company by the Chinese Communist Party, that this amounts to foreign interference in our democracy and in an election year no less.”
Senator Paterson called on members of Parliament to boycott the platform, which Chinese Tencent Holdings own.
He said on Sydney Radio. “What the Chinese government has done by shutting down an Australian account is foreign interference of Australian democracy in an election year,” he added, “No politician should be on WeChat and legitimizing their censorship.”
Gladys Liu, the Chinese-Australian lawmaker, also condemned the move in a statement on Monday.
“This sort of interference in our political processes is unacceptable, and this matter should be taken extremely seriously by all Australian politicians.”
In an interview with Sky News television, former diplomat and Liberal Party lawmaker Dave Sharma said that the Chinese regime controls the platform.
“More likely than not it was state sanctioned and it shows the attitude towards free speech and freedom of expression that comes out of Beijing.”