Pro-democracy Hong Kongers are reportedly changing their Twitter avatars to signal support for outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump and protest Trump getting banned from the platform.
Many of these Hong Kong Twitter users found uncomfortable parallels between Twitter’s ban on Trump and the way their own speech and political activism has been ruthlessly criminalized and suppressed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
— HoSaiLei (@hkbhkese) January 9, 2021
According to Coconuts Hong Kong, some Hong Kong residents like Trump because of his opposition to China, while others are more concerned with the precedent social media companies like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are setting for censorship by banning Trump’s accounts.
One of the Hong Kong Twitter users who changed his avatar to Trump’s face said banning Trump from the platform was “unacceptable” and asked, “Why has the company not banned other accounts also appearing to spread fake news or incite violence?”
Coconuts Hong Kong hastened to point out that various social media companies have banned large numbers of accounts for spreading disinformation and pushing propaganda, including accounts linked to the government of China, but conceded that “no high-profile leaders have been targeted” the way Trump has.
As though eager to confirm the worst fears of Hong Kong dissidents, Chinese state media was quick to celebrate Western social media companies imposing speech controls, while chiding them for not likewise acting to silence the Hong Kong protest movement.
China’s state-run Global Times, for example, said Sunday that the actions of Twitter and other social media platforms after the Capitol riot were “totally in sharp contrast to these platforms’ reactions to violent riots in Hong Kong in 2019, which dragged the city into chaos lasting about one year and inflicted huge financial losses.”
The Global Times castigated Western tech companies for allowing Chinese dissidents to use their platforms:
In addition to allowing speeches that spread and stirred violence, foreign social platforms Facebook, Twitter and Telegram have been popular tools for Hong Kong rioters to call for illegal assemblies and to doxx police officers. Posts promoting Hong Kong secession are rife on these platforms, the Global Times previously learned from the Hong Kong police.
Platforms such as Telegram have fallen into rioters’ hands. These companies have always refused to cooperate with police on law enforcement issues, and because there were no legal terms, they only operated under corporation status, Ronny Chan, chairman of the Superintendents’ Association of the Hong Kong Police Force, told the Global Times previously.
“The Hong Kong rioters who were actively inciting violence far outnumbered the U.S. protesters, and lasted longer, why didn’t they ban them? Those platforms will lose their moral high ground of advertising freedom of speech forever,” said a user of China’s Weibo microblogging platform quoted approvingly by the Global Times — which forgot to mention that Weibo exists because China’s authoritarian regime bans Twitter for everyone except Communist officials, who freely use the platform to disseminate propaganda and disinformation in the outside world.
The Chinese state newspaper concluded its harangue of Twitter and Facebook by saying they “failed to reply to the Global Times as of press time,” without specifying what questions it asked them.