Twitter locks out Chinese Embassy in US over post on Uighurs

Twitter has locked the official account for the Chinese Embassy to the US after a post that defended the Beijing government’s policies in the western region of Xinjiang, where critics say China is engaged in the forced sterilisation of minority Uygur women.

The tweet, which said Uygur women were no longer “baby-making machines,” was originally shared on January 7, but was not removed by Twitter until more than 24 hours later. It has been replaced by a label saying, “This tweet is no longer available.” Even though Twitter hides tweets that violate its rules, it still requires the account owner to manually delete the post in order to regain access to the account.

The account is still locked, a Twitter spokesman confirmed, meaning the Chinese Embassy has not deleted the tweet. The Chinese Embassy account, @ChineseEmbinUS, has not posted since January 8, having published at least a dozen more tweets after the one breaking Twitter’s rules. The Chinese Embassy declined immediate comment. Chinese state media had earlier called Twitter’s decision to delete the tweet “hypocrisy”.

“We have taken action on this Tweet for violating our policy against dehumanisation,” a Twitter spokesman said in a statement. Twitter prohibits the “dehumanisation of a group of people based on their religion, caste, age, disability, serious disease, national origin, race, or ethnicity.”

The move is the latest in a series of escalating steps Twitter has taken in recent weeks to enforce its policies. The suspension of the Chinese Embassy account came soon after Twitter permanently banned Donald Trump’s account for repeated rules violations, and potentially complicates Beijing’s efforts to reset relations with the US under President Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, then-acting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that China’s actions against Uygur minorities amounted to “genocide”, a label that his successor Antony Blinken agreed with during his confirmation hearings this week. China has maintained that it is fighting separatism and extremism in the region, where the United Nations has estimated up to 1 million Uygurs may be held in camps.

The decision to suspend the Chinese Embassy account also adds to an already complicated relationship between US tech companies and China. Large social platforms like Twitter, Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google and YouTube are all banned in China, while Trump had previously demanded that Chinese startup ByteDance spin off its successful video service TikTok in the US.

China has moved to rein its own big tech companies in recent months, proposing an antitrust regime in November that would give the Communist Party sweeping powers over some of the country’s biggest corporations. (Courtesy Bloomberg)

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