Chinese-owned TikTok suspended the account of a Muslim teenager from New Jersey after she uploaded a video to the app this month criticizing Beijing for its repression of Muslim minority Uyghurs, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Tuesday.
American high school graduate Hana Hassan, 18, uploaded a video of herself to TikTok this month in which she blasts “Beijing’s policies of mass incarceration” in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province where “up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are believed to have been detained in a vast network of internment camps in the region since April 2017,” the U.S. government-funded broadcaster noted.
With more than 884,000 followers on TikTok, Hassan’s Uyghur video went viral this month. It was reportedly viewed more than 4.2 million times before TikTok administrators removed it and prohibited Hassan from posting live video streams to the platform.
In an interview with RFA’s Uyghur Service on Tuesday, Hassan detailed her experience with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) censorship. The teenager said she posted the video to TikTok four times, each time encountering resistance from administrators:
I posted it four times. The first three times, it was all shadow banned, meaning it had zero views and TikTok wasn’t going to let it get on the page until they [reviewed] the video. Then, the first one got taken down and the third and fourth one … But the second video I posted, that one started reaching at least like 12 people … And thankfully it got a decent amount of attention.
Hassan said that the Uyghur video incident this month was not the first time the Chinese app has censored her. The young woman claimed TikTok has banned or restricted her account “multiple” times after she uploaded videos to the app in which she discussed political themes:
[A]nytime I speak on government or politics, they’ll usually take those videos down. They have permanently banned me from live streaming … And they didn’t really give me a reason besides [saying] violating community guidelines. They’ve suspended my account from posting multiple times and each time I’m suspended it’s for like a week duration. So, lots of my videos have been taken down.
In November 2019, a 17-year-old American high school student named Feroza Aziz, a Muslim Afghan American, experienced similar censorship after she uploaded a video to TikTok in which she, too, discussed “China’s oppression and maltreatment of the Uyghurs,” RFA reported. Unlike Hassan, Aziz initially hid her message by speaking it during a fake make-up tutorial. Aziz’s video garnered more than 1.6 million views before TikTok administrators removed the content and temporarily suspended the teenager’s account for “violating a policy on terrorism-related material,” according to the report.
China’s repression of ethnic minorities in its northwest region, Xinjiang, especially of Uyghur Muslims, has drawn increasing criticism from citizens and western governments alike in recent months. On June 17, U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act into law, the world’s first official challenge of the CCP’s use of concentration camps to detain Uyghur Muslims.