According to Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) activists in China have been pressured by police to delete sensitive tweets, and in other instances there have been reports of the authorities gaining access to accounts and shutting them down. HKFP reported that Yaxue Cao, founder of the human rights site, China Change, was referring to the action as a ‘silent slaughter’. On November 17, China Change reported that the Twitter account of Chinese activist Wu Gan was suddenly deleted. Wu’s account had more than 30,000 posts, and he was jailed in December 2017 for subversion.
The latest crackdown comes, despite Twitter being blocked by the ‘Great Firewall’ in China and uses having to use VPNs to access it.
At the same time, the South China Morning Post reported that nearly 10,000 social media accounts had been shut down in just three weeks under a new government campaign. The latest government-led campaign was launched on October 20, and include accounts belonging to ‘a popular talk show celebrity, an entertainment blogger who shared film footage, online influencers commenting on social issues and bloggers writing extensively on ethnicity’.
As part of the crackdown, the Cyberspace Administration summoned representatives of Weibo and Wechat over their management of the platforms. Both platforms were given ‘serious warnings’ over their ‘irresponsibility and lax management’. The Administration also said that the deleted accounts ‘trampled on the dignity of laws and regulations and damaged the ecology of online public opinion’.
The IFJ said: “The Chinese Government’s crackdown of the online sphere has become an ongoing attack on freedom of expression and speech, and is a blatant attempt by the government to control the public narrative.”