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China suspected in disappearance of Australian PM's WeChat account

China suspected in disappearance of Australian PMs WeChat account

Canberra: Australian politicians have pointed the finger at Chinese interference which they claim is behind the mysterious 'disappearance' of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's WeChat account. The official account of the Prime Minister with his name was replaced by one titled "Australian Chinese new life" according to reports.

The Daily Telegraph reported Morrison has been locked out of his account since then. All of the posts on the "Australian Chinese new life" account relate to Australian government announcements or messages from Morrison.

"What the Chinese government has done by shutting down the Prime Minister's account is effectively foreign interference in our democracy," Liberal Party's James Paterson told 2GB radio on Monday, calling for a boycott of the app.

PM Morrison had subscribed to WeChat, a China-owned app that is popular in China due to the ban on WhatsApp, in order to connect to the sizeable Chinese-Australian population in Australia. There were initial fears that his account could be censored for posting content that the Chinese government deemed inappropriate.

In 2020, a post of Morrison's defending Australia's decision to investigate war crimes committed by its own soldiers; the post contained criticism of Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, who had tweeted a fake image of an Australian soldier holding a knife, which is speculated to the be the reason behind removal. The account was also temporarily blocked.

All of the posts on the "Australian Chinese new life" account relate to Australian government announcements or messages from Morrison, but although Morrison created his account in 2019, the creation date of the new account is marked as 2021.

The Prime Minister's office has made multiple fruitless requests to WeChat to regain access to the account, most recently on January 10, Reuters reported, citing an anonymous official. The account is also a key way to reach Chinese Australians with messages in the upcoming elections, and also in Chinese New Year.

No official statement has been made, either by Morrison or by TenCent Holdings the Chinese tech company which owns a large stake in WeChat.

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