Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has had his personal account on Chinese-owned social messaging service WeChat taken over by a Chinese tech company and shut down Monday, Reuters reported.
Fuzhou 985 Technology, a China-based technology firm, managed to take control of Morrison’s WeChat account, which currently has 76,000 followers, several months ago, Reuters reported. Morrison reportedly used the account to communicate with Australians of Chinese origin.
Fuzhou rebranded the account as “Australian Chinese New Life” and redirected users visiting the account to Fuzhou’s website, according to a CNN translation.
A Fuzhou spokesman told Reuters the company bought Morrison’s account from a man living in mainland China. A spokesperson for Tencent, which owns WeChat, told CNN that Morrison’s account was originally registered to a Chinese individual and that there is a dispute over the account’s ownership.
Tencent and Fuzhou 985 Technology did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for further comment on the situation.
“The account in question was originally registered by a [Chinese] individual and was subsequently transferred to its current operator, a technology services company — and will be handled in accordance with our platform rules,” the Tencent spokesperson said, CNN reported. “Tencent is committed to upholding the integrity of our platform and the security of all users accounts, and we will continue to look into this matter further.”
James Paterson, an Australian lawmaker who chairs the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, said the Australian government was attempting to contact WeChat to restore Morrison’s ownership, CNN reported.
“This is pretty clearly and transparently an attempt by the Chinese Communist Party to censor the Australian Prime Minister and prevent him from campaigning to the Chinese Australian community,” Paterson told an Australian radio station on Monday, according to The Wall Street Journal.
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