China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying has questioned why Chinese people cannot use Twitter or Facebook despite foreigners having access to Chinese media platforms.

Hua Chunying. File Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

At a press conference last Thursday, China Review News asked Hua about an Associated Press report which found that Beijing had launched “what may be its first global digital disinformation campaign” to seed and spread stories suggesting Covid-19 originated in the US. “The number of Chinese diplomatic accounts on Twitter has more than tripled since mid-2019, while on Facebook they’ve more than doubled,” the report said.

In response, Hua accused US officials and the media of spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories, claiming they “blatantly malign and smear China.”

She said that many western officials use China’s Weibo and WeChat: “Why can’t Chinese people use Twitter or Facebook when foreigners can use Chinese social media platforms?” Hua said in response. “We are just adding an extra channel to share information and communicate with people in other countries.”

Years of censorship

Twitter and Facebook have been blocked for over a decade in China, disappearing behind the “great firewall” in 2009, whilst citizens have faced prosecution for using the platform.

Meanwhile, western governments – such as the UK embassy in Beijing – have complained that their posts have been removed from Chinese social media platforms.

File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Last year, Twitter removed more than 170,000 accounts linked to a Chinese government disinformation campaign targeting the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and the US.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.