Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s WeChat account has been taken over by entities that have rebranded it “Australian Chinese new life” and used the account to offer advice on living in Australia for the nation’s Chinese community.
Morrison, leader of the right-of-centre Liberal Party of Australia, has used Tencent-owned WeChat as a campaigning tool to reach Australia’s sizable Chinese community – many of whom are concentrated in particular seats and are therefore considered a sought-after voting bloc.
Other members of the government have concluded the takeover of the account must be the work of Chinese authorities. Evidence for that claim, other than Beijing’s ability to boss Chinese companies, has not been provided.
But China has little love for Morrison, who led international calls for an inquiry into the origin of SARS-CoV-2. The Middle Kingdom later issued a list of 14 demands with which it expected Australia to comply, among them reversing a ban on Huawei, cessation of accusing China of cyber-attacks, reversing a decision to bar a state government from participating in the Belt and Road initiative, and refraining from further comment on matters such as human rights or the legitimacy of China’s territorial claims.
China also imposed tariffs on some Australian goods.
Australia’s government has ignored that list, and China has ignored Australia’s entreaties to talk about its trade sanctions while occasionally sniping in less-than-diplomatic language.
News that Morrison’s WeChat account has been – ahem – re-purposed will not help matters. Nor will it help him to campaign in an election due by May and at which current polling predicts the incumbents will struggle to retain government.
The Register has asked Tencent, WeChat’s owner and operator, if it has any knowledge of how and when the account changed hands. At the time of writing we have received no response but will update this story if a substantial response is offered. ®