China Censors Australia Prime Minister’s Peace Message from Social Media

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a joint news conference with Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (not pictured) at Sugas official residence in Tokyo on November 17, 2020. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KIYOSHI OTA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
KIYOSHI OTA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese social media platform WeChat deleted a message posted by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday, accusing him of misleading the public with his words.

Morrison’s message addressed the Chinese foreign ministry’s publishing of a doctored image on November 29 depicting an Australian soldier holding a bloody knife to the throat of a child. The ministry shared the fake photo on Twitter in response to an Australian military inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by members of the Australian special forces in Afghanistan from 2005-2016. Released on November 19, the report recommended that the Australian Federal Police investigate 19 soldiers for the “unlawful killing” of 39 prisoners and civilians. Morrison on Monday demanded China issue a formal apology for the false image and that Twitter remove the illustration from its platform.

“The post of a false image of an Australian soldier does not diminish our respect for and appreciation of our Chinese Australian community or indeed our friendship with the people of China,’’ Morrison wrote in the now-deleted WeChat message, according to news.com.au.

Elsewhere in his message, Morrison “promoted Australia as a ‘free, democratic, liberal country,’ and explained that an official probe is underway into alleged atrocities by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan,” Bloomberg reported.

“That post was removed for the use of ‘misleading words’ to ‘distort historical events and deceive the public,’ according to a message displayed in its place,” the news agency revealed.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Thursday called WeChat’s removal of Morrison’s post “unnecessary.”

Bloomberg asked Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying about WeChat’s blatant censorship of a world leader’s message on Thursday at a regular press conference.

“I’m not aware of it. What you asked about is a matter between the WeChat company and Prime Minister Morrison. WeChat deals with business affairs following its rules,” Hua responded.

WeChat’s Chinese parent company, Tencent Holdings Ltd., has so far refused to comment on the censorship.

“Morrison created his WeChat public account in February 2019, becoming one of the few heads of state who have a presence on China’s largest social network with 1 billion users,” according to Bloomberg. Since then, the prime minister has “posted regularly in Chinese to communicate his government’s policies. During last year’s federal election in Australia, leaders of the main political parties took to the platform to conduct question-and-answer sessions with Chinese-Australian voters.”

The Chinese government strictly monitors and regulates all traditional and social media outlets operating in the country, and WeChat is no exception. China’s Communist Party allows WeChat and other heavily censored social media platforms such as Weibo, to serve as replacements for Twitter, which is officially banned in the country. A Chinese microblogging service, Weibo, like WeChathas become notorious for blocking or removing posts by foreign embassies on topics such as human rights and stock market manipulation.

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