A message by Prime Minister Scott Morrison that was directed at the Chinese community and critical of an inflammatory post by a senior Beijing bureaucrat has been censored by a Chinese tech giant.
The statement on social media platform WeChat was published on Tuesday night. However, it has now been blocked because it “violates” the company’s regulations.
Mr Morrison had taken to WeChat to again voice the Australian Government’s disgust at Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijiang’s tweet on Monday, which showed a fake image of an Australian soldier created by a Chinese artist.
The Prime Minister said in the WeChat post Australia was dealing with allegations of war crimes detailed in the landmark Brereton Inquiry in an “honest and transparent way”, which was how any “free, democratic and enlightened nation” would act.
Mr Morrison followed the swipe at Beijing with a promise the diplomatic spat would not diminish the respect and appreciation Australia had for the Chinese people.
On Wednesday, the WeChat post was no longer accessible.
A message from the social media platform was displayed in its place. It said the post was “involving the use of words, pictures, videos” that would “incite, mislead, and violate objective facts, fabricating social hot topics, distorting historical events, and confusing the public”.
The ABC has contacted WeChat’s parent company, Tencent, for comment, as well as the Prime Minister’s office.
Last year Mr Morrison was grilled by reporters about whether his WeChat account could be censored by the Chinese Government.
He replied: “No, we haven’t experienced any such censorship.”
One Government official told the ABC it was too early to gauge whether Mr Morrison’s post had been pulled down by Tencent on the orders of the Chinese Government.
On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying brandished a copy of the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force’s report into allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan, and took aim at the Australian Government for demanding the tweet by her colleague be removed.
“They are trying to style themselves as defenders of freedom and democracy, but it is a travesty of freedom and democracy,” she said.
“It is all double standards and hypocrisy.”
Earlier the Chinese embassy in Paris hit out at comments by the French Foreign Ministry labelling the Twitter post “shocking”. The embassy accused the French Government of trying to stifle freedom of expression.
By Mattew Doran, Iris Zhao and Stephen Dziedzic