Twitter lifts ban on Chinese ambassador’s account amidst allegations of curbing freedom of speech

Twitter lifts ban on Chinese ambassador’s account amidst allegations of curbing freedom of speech

Twitter lifts ban on Chinese ambassador’s account amidst allegations of curbing freedom of speech

Written by Hassaan Shazuli

15 Apr, 2020 | 1:39 pm

COLOMBO (News1st): US social network Twitter, after almost a day, has lifted the suspension imposed on the account of China’s Ambassador to Cyprus, in the face of comments that the social media giant is showing double standards.

China’s ambassador to Malawi Liu Hongyang tweeted about the suspension raising queries over the freedom of speech.

This echoed similar sentiments expressed in Colombo when the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka, following the suspension of its account, also accused the US social media platform of curtailing freedom of speech.

“There is so-called freedom of media, but on the other hand, they suspend and lock any account that is not on their agenda,” Luo Chong, the spokesman for the mission in Colombo had told News1st.

The suspension of the account in Colombo had been lifted on Tuesday after Twitter apologized for a systematic error.

Sri Lanka’s foreign minister Dinesh Gunawardena on his handle welcomed the move to reinstate the “official twitter account”, which is yet to be verified by Twitter.

Hongyang, the ambassador in Malawi, responding to a handle @captainsacks — which on its bio had stated is fed-up of anti-Chinese news and is against US propaganda — said the reason behind suspending the account of the ambassador in Cyprus is unclear.

“Wow, they suspended him? What for? Has he appealed it?” wrote @captainsacks, for which the ambassador had said “Yes. But no answer yet”.

China had banned Facebook and Twitter following the 2009 Ürümqi riots in northwest China, however, reports suggest there could be millions of Chinese users who use these platforms through proxy servers. News1st was unable to verify this claim.

– Harsh responses?

The manner in which the Chinese Embassy in Colombo conducted itself on Twitter prior to its suspension had angered many users, who accused it of using undiplomatic language while responding to allegations against China.

The embassy can be seen continuing to respond to allegations, a move which its spokesman Luo Chong told News1st, was merely stating its stance.

Earlier Wednesday, social media user Thanushi Wijeratne had raised queries regarding China’s “debt-trap”, and pointed out allegations concerning “copyright infringements”, “equipment of poor standards”, and the Belt and Road initiative.

But the embassy snapped back by responding; “We would like to hear these cases and proofs in Sri Lanka about your accusation. If you didn’t see it happening in this Island, why you believe it’s everywhere in the world? Only because some media or politicians say it?”

The embassy had also responded to a query asking whether it would lift the Twitter ban in China, by saying “We believe if Twitter could follow the laws and rules of China, the market might also be opened to them”.

In a contrasting move, social media users tweeted screenshots which showed that they had been blocked on Twitter by the embassy. They believe that this was a reaction for continuously questioning Beijing.

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