By Sasha Gong, PhD
In the afternoon of Friday, May 31, Twitter suspended my account (@Sasha_Gong) without providing any probable cause.
I am a journalist, a scholar, and a published author. I joined Twitter in February 2012. Since then, I sent out over 6,000 tweets, many of which were retweets from news media. I wrote most of my own tweets in Chinese, knowing that millions of truth-seekers would find their ways to cross the great firewall built by the totalitarian government to read them. Since very young age, as a political dissident in China, I took spreading the message of truth and freedom as my God-given duty. After becoming a proud American, I devoted my entire professional career to the same duty.
My twitter account accumulated more than 62,000 followers throughout years. In the Chinese-speaking world, I am known to be a writer who never used any foul and offensive languages. However, I never hide my political conviction – I oppose the Chinese communist regime. I encourage the Chinese people to pursuit freedom and democracy. I condemn dictatorship and political persecution. I understand that the forces backed by Chinese government always want to block my voice. But Twitter, an American company?
Within hours, I found out that I was not the only target. Thousands of twitter accounts of Chinese-speakers were suspended in the same Friday afternoon, prior to the 30th anniversary of the June 4th Tiananmen Massacre. So far, every suspended account I have located was critical of the Chinese government. Twitter’s action seems to be in accordance with that of the Chinese authorities, who launched sever crackdown against any criticism in the eve of the big anniversary. No wonder many Chinese call it “the twitter massacre”.
This is not a joking matter.
The year I registered my twitter account, I also registered a similar social media account – weibo – in the Chinese web. Within one year, my weibo account attracted 600,000 fans. It was shut down by the Chinese government. Later, many of my social media fans in China were harassed and interrogated by the secret police. At the time, I felt most grateful that I lived in the United States, the great nation protected by the First Amendment. On Friday, with one strike, Twitter gave me the foul taste of dictatorship.
Since the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, we have witnessed the fall of communism in the Eastern Block, and the rise of a new kind of mercantile totalitarianism in China. With massive resources, the Chinese Communist Party monopolizes the entire field of the public rhetoric inside China. CCP has also extended its influence in the Chinese communities around the globe, leaving little space for political dissent in the Chinese-speaking world.
Social media platforms, especially Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, have become refuges of dissenting voices for the Chinese people. Unfortunately, lured by the promise of a great market, these American companies are tilting toward CCP, and are compromising the American founding principles of freedom of speech.
In the eve of the 30th anniversary of June 4th massacre, the massive suspension of Twitter accounts gives us Americans another sever warning. We must tell the social media giants: in this epic fight for freedom, if you are not with us, you are against us.