In recent days the arrest and detention of the Huawei CFO, who is also the daughter of the company’s founder, has grabbed global headlines, and has been a topic of popular discussion on the Chinese social media app Wechat.
However, multiple stories about the arrest of Meng posted by local Chinese-language media on WeChat were deleted by the company for “content violation.”
On Dec. 5, when the story was broken by the Richmond News and other English media outlets, local Chinese publications, such as Vanfun and Richmond-based West Canada Weekly, published the story using their respective WeChat accounts soon after.
However, more than an hour later, Vanfun’s story, translated as “Huawei is in trouble! Zhengfei Ren’s daughter Wanzhou Meng was arrested in Vancouver airport, China releases statement,” was shut down by the WeChat Public Platform Operation Centre.
Almost at the same time, West Canada Weekly’s article on the arrest was also shut down.
The articles were replaced by a general notice issued by the centre saying “the content cannot be seen for violating rules.” It does not specify which rules the articles violated, but for more information, readers are directed to the website of Cyberspace Administration of China, which is owned by the Chinese government.
During Meng’s bail hearing last Friday and Monday, a number of articles published by local Chinese-speaking media were also shut down for ”content violation.” One story posted by the account “Vancouver Headline” had gained more than 100,000 views before it was shut down.
“My guess is that the first two days of the hearing revealed a lot of personal information about Meng and her husband, and (the Chinese government) didn’t want the information to be circulated,” said a local Chinese media professional who asks to remain anonymous.
Although news about Huawei is updated on official Wechat accounts of Chinese state-run media, such as China Centre Television and the People’s Daily, unofficial Wechat accounts have to find ways to avoid censorship.
In one case, a popular Chinese Wechat blogger posted an article about Meng‘s case on Wednesday, but the content was a screenshot of documents held elsewhere in order to avoid the Wechat's detection systems.
“To get this article published, I was at the point of despair. I have replaced (possible) sensitive words (countless) times but couldn’t get the article approved, so I have to turn the words into screenshots...Those once common words cannot be said now,” wrote the author in a reply in the comments section.