The embassy’s account, @ChineseEmbinUS, tweeted earlier this month that Uighur women had been “emancipated” by government policy from being “baby making machines”—supporting that statement with a study that was reported by the state-controlled newspaper China Daily.
“We’ve taken action on the Tweet you referenced for violating our policy against dehumanization, where it states: We prohibit the dehumanization of a group of people based on their religion, caste, age, disability, serious disease, national origin, race, or ethnicity,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement.
According to the San Francisco-based company, users have to manually delete the tweets in question if they want the account to be fully restored. The last tweet from the embassy account was on January 9.
The controversial post was an apparent attempt to defend the country’s treatment of the ethnic minority group amid international criticism over the years, which was recently ramped up when the U.S. State Department called it a “genocide” this week.
“I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement, adding that Chinese officials were “engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group.”
China’s Foreign Ministry criticized the freezing of the Twitter account, saying that its government has a “responsibility and obligation” to fight “disinformation” about its activities in the Xinjiang region.
“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,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said during a press briefing Thursday.
“Greater efforts should be made to distinguish between disinformation, rumors and lies from facts and truth.”
The Chinese Embassy also responded in a statement that “the so-called genocide in Xinjiang is simply a lie,” adding that the overall population of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, as well as that of Uighurs, had grown from 2010 to 2018.
Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, is banned in China.
The ethnic Uighurs are a Muslim minority group living in western China. According to the United Nations and several Western nations, they have been repressed by the Chinese government for years.
In recent weeks, Twitter has moved more aggressively to enforce its content policies against government leaders and officials.
Earlier this month, Twitter permanently suspended former President Donald Trump’s account after the storming of the U.S. Capitol, saying that the decision was made “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.