WeChat appears to be purging public accounts that have voiced support for Liu Jingyao, the University of Minnesota student who has filed a lawsuit saying she was raped last August by Liú Qiángdōng Richard Liu 刘强东, the chief executive officer of China’s ecommerce giant JD.com.
The abrupt clampdown happened yesterday when a number of public accounts on the all-encompassing mega app found themselves unceremoniously banned from posting. The affected accounts are blogs featuring a diverse range of topics, including gender issues, feminism, philosophy, and social affairs. Despite their different focuses, these accounts, at some point in the past few weeks, had all circulated the online petition in support of Liu Jingyao in her case against Richard Liu.
The accounts taken down were given no advance warning. Judging from the notices issued by WeChat, the decision was made after it received complaints and found out some of their content were “in violation of relevant regulations” regarding public accounts on the internet.
According to (in Chinese) camus, the owner of “The Albert Camus Lectures,” a WeChat blog that has a particular focus on advocating for social justice and has about 25,000 followers, the last post he published on the account was an article that carries the hashtag #HereForJingyao and calls for signatures on the petition.
“I know that signing the petition is more of a symbolic gesture, but it made me feel everything I’ve done was worthwhile,” he wrote in a Douban post after the clampdown. “I never betrayed my original intention until the last minute of this blog’s existence.”
The online petition that presumably landed these accounts in trouble started to circulate on the Chinese internet about two weeks ago. Reuters reported on April 20 that hundreds of people had added their names to the petition in support of the alleged victim.
“To Liu Jingyao: You are not alone. We believe in survivors, we believe in your bravery and honesty, we will always stand with you. We must join hands and march together in the face of the challenge of a culture of blaming the victims of rape,” the petition said.
On a related note, Tencent, WeChat’s parent company, is JD.com’s biggest investor. The two tech giants are longtime collaborators in purchasing stocks and investment.
In case you need to catch up on this ongoing saga, Liu Jingyao is a 21-year-old University of Minnesota student who accused Richard Liu, the billionaire founder of JD.com, of rape in a lawsuit filed in Minneapolis on April 16, roughly four months after prosecutors declined to press criminal charges against him. The case has been the most discussed topic on Chinese social media in the past few weeks.