China’s state-run Global Times declared in an article Sunday that President Donald Trump’s permanent removal from the social media outlet Twitter was proof “freedom of speech does have political and ethical boundaries” in its “true essence.”
The outlet, often one of the most belligerent Chinese government vehicles in English, asserted Twitter had “ruthlessly deprived” Trump of his freedom of speech, but concluded this was compatible with the true meaning of freedom of expression. The Times conceded the censure was an aberration from the Western, presumably illegitimate interpretation of the phrase — typically meant to mean that individuals have the right to express themselves however they want.
The Chinese Communist Party does not allow its citizens to use Twitter or other Western social media outlets such as Facebook. The only options available to Chinese citizens are Chinese social media apps such as Weibo, WeChat, and Baidu, all of which are heavily regulated by the Communist Party. The Party does not allow opinions that differ from those of the government on its social media applications and regularly takes legal action against individuals considered to be engaging in speech that may harm the Party, including non-political speech.
The ban on using Twitter does not extend to Communist Party officials. Foreign Ministry propagandists and “pundits” like Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin use the platform to spread disinformation in defense of Chinese state violence.
PLA troops stationed at an altitude of 5,000 meters in the Tibet area are now equipped with an exoskeleton suit, which can help them carry materials weighing as much as an adult and can effectively avoid waist/leg injuries. Do they look like warriors in Hollywood blockbusters😁? pic.twitter.com/hPWA4Ou1Df
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) December 10, 2020
“Does the silencing of Trump breach the principle of freedom of speech?” the Global Times article asked, concluding that it did, but only if one uses the “American” definition of freedom of speech.
“No matter what the first amendment says, that Trump cannot express his opinions on social networks and lost the right that every ordinary American enjoys definitely violates the principle of freedom of speech endorsed by US political elites,” the propaganda outlet declared. It went on to declare that definition a distortion of the “true essence” of free speech and accuse America of censoring speech that harms the “U.S. system.”
“As a political resource in the U.S., freedom of speech will not be allowed to oppose the U.S. system and the victors in the system. That’s why Trump’s freedom of speech was ruthlessly deprived,” the Global Times asserted.
The Times appeared to celebrate Trump’s removal, despite Twitter having no presence in China and, thus, no real impact within the country.
“In fact, the political connotation of freedom of speech has been concealed by the discourse power of the U.S. and the West. Freedom of speech does have political and ethical boundaries,” the propaganda outlet wrote. “The silencing of Trump unveiled this true essence of freedom of speech.”
The newspaper concluded that the social media bans would generate debate that would “further divide U.S. society and lead to more hatred and confusion.”
In a separate column Friday, the Global Times declared that the concept of freedom of speech is not legitimate, but rather “just a tool for Americans to attack each other, or insult other countries.”
“The hypocrisy and double standards of US democracy have increasingly been laid bare in recent years. Take freedom of speech. For American media outlets and many Americans, those who can speak and whose ‘freedom of speech’ is protected are those who hold similar political viewpoints with them,” the Global Times claimed.
The Times urged the world to “redefine and understand freedom of speech” in a way that allows for restricting more speech.
“Free speech doesn’t mean irresponsible narratives, including those inciting violence, racism and group discrimination. It does not mean spreading rumors and lies under the banner of freedom of speech,” a Chinese “expert” told the Times.
Twitter permanently banned Trump after a group of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol last week, presumably in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election in favor of President-elect Joe Biden. During the siege, Trump used Twitter to publish a video telling rioters to “go home,” adding, “we love you, you’re very special.”
The siege failed to stop the process but resulted in extensive property damage and at least five deaths, including that of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. At least 52 people have been arrested and 68 charged with crimes related to the siege, according to the local government of Washington, D.C.
Following the Twitter ban, other prominent social media outlets like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest also banned or restricted Trump’s access to their platforms.
China has repeatedly discouraged the world from respecting the United States in the aftermath of the riot.
“For some people in the west, they pride themselves on their democracy and freedom, even though deep down they have their grievances and dissatisfaction; they criticize China as being authoritarian and totalitarian, even though deep down they may hope they could lead a life as the Chinese do,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Friday in response to a question about the riot. “I do think that it is time for them to wake up, do some reflection, discard their double standard, and open up their eyes and minds to the world.”