Twitter restricted the ability of the Chinese Embassy to the U.S. to post tweets after it deemed one of its posts dehumanising to the Uighur people, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group that the Chinese government has reportedly subjected to dystopian surveillance, detention camps, and forced abortion and sterilisation.
The tweet in question, posted on Jan. 7, slurred Uighur women in the Xinjiang region that had not been, “emancipated” as “baby-making machines.”
“We’ve taken action on the Tweet you referenced for violating our policy against dehumanisation, where it states: We prohibit the dehumanisation of a group of people based on their religion, caste, age, disability, serious disease, national origin, race, or ethnicity,” a Twitter spokesperson told Gizmodo on Thursday. The site added that the @ChineseEmbinUS account was locked down temporarily until the tweet had been deleted.
According to Bloomberg, Twitter hid the tweet under a “no longer available” label on January 9. The takedown notice is still live on the embassy’s account and it hasn’t posted since that date, heavily suggesting it has refused to comply with the directive in order to restore its ability to tweet.
Mike Pompeo, who departed as the former Trump administration’s Secretary of State this week, declared on Tuesday that the U.S. officially views the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighurs and other largely Muslim minority groups as “genocide… the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state” via “forced assimilation and eventual erasure.” U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee to replace Pompeo, Antony Blinken, has confirmed it is also the new administration’s view that China is committing genocide. Blinken said that within his first 30 days in the role he will seek to prohibit imports made with forced labour in Xinjiang, as well as prohibit exports to China of “technologies and tools that could be used to further their repression.”
Twitter has drawn significant attention this month for banning Trump over his incitement of a riot at the Capitol on January 7 and the risk he would use his account to stage a redux before he left office on Jan. 20 — sparking anger among conservatives and warnings from other critics over social media firms’ lack of transparency and consistency in their moderation decisions. However, Twitter taking action against government officials and institutions is not new; it’s banned extremist parties such as Greek’s Golden Dawn, temporarily suspended accounts belonging to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and booted Cuban government accounts over inauthentic activity.
China has consistently denied it commits human rights abuses against Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a press conference on Thursday that like the U.S., China is also the target of “swarming conspiracy theories and disinformation” and the embassy “has the responsibility and obligation to clarify things and present the truth.”
“We find Twitter’s restriction on the embassy account baffling and hope it will uphold the principle of objectivity and impartiality instead of applying double standard,” Hua added. “Greater efforts should be made to distinguish between disinformation, rumours and lies from facts and truth.”