Morrison‘s liberal Party Lost access to its official WeChat social media account months ago, politicians said on Monday, issuing claims of censorship while the still-active account, run by an unknown controller, now promotes Chinese life in Australia.
Amid rising diplomatic tensions with China, two of Australia’s major political parties have used social media platforms owned by the Chinese tech giant. Tencent Holdings Limited, to communicate with Australian voters of Chinese ethnicity in a hard-fought electorate since 2019.
With the national election due in May, the government will aim to use the Morrison account to promote its policies during Chinese New Year celebrations beginning on February 1.The Office A person with knowledge of the matter said he had made several useless requests to WeChat to gain access to the account, most recently on January 10, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Tencent did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
Both the Liberals and the main opposition Labor Party set up official WeChat accounts for their leaders through outsourced agencies. The Scott Morrison account was registered in mainland China in 2019 using the name of a Chinese national as its account operator, WeChat records show and a government source has confirmed.
Along with Morrison’s photo, it originally promoted major announcements on the economy or the COVID-19 pandemic translated into Chinese.
But in January, the account was renamed ‘Australia China New Life’, and said it would provide information about life in Australia, Reuters confirmed by looking at the account. Account registration is now tied to a technology company in Fujian province, Reuters found.
liberal senator James Patterson, the chairman of Parliament’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, told the media that the incident was an example of “censorship” and “foreign interference”.
“There are 1.2 million Australians of Chinese descent who use the service heavily and can no longer access news and information from their prime minister,” he said on Australian radio on Monday.
“Yet they can get access to criticisms of the government, attacks on the government by the (Labour) opposition leader,” he said.
Fergus Ryan, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said registering the prime minister’s WeChat account in the name of a Chinese national was “always risky and wrong advice”, and appears to be a violation of WeChat rules.
“Any account set up in this way can be closed at a moment’s notice,” he said.
The Scott Morrison WeChat account was temporarily blocked in December 2020 amid a political dispute between Canberra and Beijing over a photograph of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan.
In the 2020 incident, a note surfaced from WeChat stating that the content violated regulations, including distorting historical events and misleading the public.