The prime minister’s WeChat account has been taken over and rebranded to “Australian Chinese new life” earlier this month, according to the Daily Telegraph.
WeChat is China’s most popular messaging app with a monthly user base of more than 1 billion people and 1.5 million in Australia.
Liberal MP and former diplomat Dave Sharma said it was likely the hacking of the account was sanctioned by the Chinese government.
He added that while the prime minister was right to have a WeChat account to try and connect with Australia’s Chinese diaspora, the platform was ultimately controlled by the Chinese communist party.
“More likely than not it was state sanctioned, and it shows the attitude towards free speech and freedom of expression that comes out of Beijing,” he told Sky News on Monday.
Liberal chair of a parliamentary intelligence and security committee James Paterson said the action was very concerning, with Morrison being the only target known to him.
Senator Paterson called all Australian politicians to boycott the platform.
“What the Chinese government has done by shutting down an Australian account is foreign interference of Australian democracy in an election year,” he said.
“No politician should be on WeChat and legitimising their censorship.”
Senator Paterson said it was also concerning 1.2 million Chinese Australians who use the service couldn’t access news from the prime minister but could still see government critiques on the platform from opposition leader Anthony Albanese.
Apparently, Morrison’s WeChat account has been plagued with problems for at least six months, with issues starting around the time he attended G7 meetings in the UK.
The PM took a list of 14 demands handed by the Chinese embassy to an Australian journalist to the G7 to warn world leaders about the dangers of giving China too much leverage.
“It wouldn’t be at all surprising if those two events were connected,” Paterson said.
Government requests to WeChat to restore access to Morrison’s account have fallen on deaf ears.
“The government has directly appealed to WeChat to restore access and no response has been given, which seems pretty clear WeChat has no intention on allowing the prime minister to continue to post,” he said.