Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s WeChat account took over and renamed, lawmaker accuses China

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta January 24, 2022
Updated 2022/01/24 at 7:33 AM

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s account on Chinese-owned social media platform WeChat has been taken back and renamed, and a lawmaker on Monday accused China’s leaders of political interference.

Morrison’s 76,000 WeChat followers were notified that his page had been renamed “Australian Chinese New Life” earlier this month and his photograph had been removed, according to Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph. reported. The changes were made without the government’s knowledge, the report said.

Morrison’s office declined to comment on the report.

Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security Chairman James Paterson said WeChat did not respond to a request by the Australian government for the prime minister’s account to be restored.

Paterson accused the Chinese Communist Party of censoring the prime minister with Australian elections set for May.

Paterson, who is a member of Morrison’s conservative Liberal Party, urged all lawmakers to boycott the platform, which is owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent.

“What the Chinese government has done by closing an Australian account is foreign interference by Australian democracy in an election year,” Paterson told Radio Sydney on 2GB.

“No politician should be on WeChat and legitimize their censorship,” Paterson added.

Paterson said it was worrying that 1.2 million Chinese Australians using the platform could not access the prime minister’s news, but could still see criticism of the government from opposition leader Anthony Albanese.

Liberal Party lawmaker and former diplomat Dave Sharma said the interference was likely sanctioned by the Chinese government.

Sharma said that while Morrison used WeChat to connect with Australia’s Chinese diaspora, the platform was controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

“It is most likely state-sanctioned and it shows the attitude towards free speech and free speech that comes from Beijing,” Sharma told Sky News television.

Morrison has had a troubled relationship with China since replacing Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister in 2018.

The Chinese have criticized a new partnership involving Australia, Britain and the United States, announced in September, under which Australia will receive nuclear-powered submarines.

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