New Delhi: Microblogging site Twitter took nearly a day to restore the official account of the Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka, which was suspended Monday after being found as spam. The suspension came days after the account used undiplomatic language in a tweet.
“This account was mistakenly caught in a spam filter. This has been reversed and the account has been reinstated,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement.
After the suspension was lifted, the Chinese embassy said in a press statement that Twitter suspended the account @ChinaEmbSL without notifying a specific reason. The embassy officials reached out to Twitter twice to restore the account.
According to the Sri Lankan media, the suspension lasted 19 hours.
In its statement, the embassy, which represents a country not known for democratic processes, said it wanted to “reiterate that the ‘Freedom of Speech’ must be honored” and not be “misused to spread groundless, racial or hatred speech nor be treated with ‘Double Standards’”.
The embassy said Twitter responded Tuesday to inform that the account had been suspended due to a “systematic mistake”, and “apologized” for the act. The embassy added that it was “regretful” such a “systematic mistake” resulted in the suspension.
What happened before suspension
The Chinese embassy’s account @ChinaEmbSL was started only last month. It is yet to be verified and has less than 2,161 followers currently.
Days before the suspension, the Sri Lankan embassy took to Twitter to defend the Chinese government amid criticism, using undiplomatic language in a tweet.
On 9 April, Twitter user @chirantha7777 said, “The low class authoritarian Chinese government that was a curse to the Chinese people, became a curse to the world…”
The embassy replied, “You are right that the “low class” Chinese government are serving 1.4billion Chinese people, even the grass root or the ” lowest class” included. Total death in #China #pandemic is 3344 till today, much smaller than your western “high class” governments. Who are cursed? (sic)”
Since the account was created, the Chinese embassy has used the platform to promote China’s acts of goodwill during the Covid-19 crisis. It posted the first tweets on 20 March, including one on China donating 100,000 masks and 20,000 test kits to Sri Lanka.
Another tweet, featuring a photo of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse with Chinese officials, said the China Development Bank has signed concessional loans worth $500 million to Sri Lanka “under COVID-19 background”.
The same tweet described how the loan offers a good deal for Sri Lanka: “Less than half of international bond market interest. 10 Years Tenure, longest for SL. China is helping SL to move out of “DEBT TRAP” of the WEST.”
Users point out irony
As the issue over the Twitter suspension was resolved, some users pointed to the irony behind the response China sought and its own internal policies. Twitter is banned in China.
“So now Twitter has unbanned you. Can you now unban Twitter in China?” asked Twitter user @indica.
The embassy responded, “We believe if Twitter could follow the laws and rules of China, the market will also be opened to them. Billions users on WeChat & Weibo.”
WeChat and Weibo are two popular social media apps in China, which are allegedly used for mass surveillance.