Twitter’s new China head puts free speech at risk

DHARAMSALA, Apr 19: Twitter’s deeper foray into china upsets the small yet significant number of Chinese users, sparking controversies.

The online social networking service on Friday appointed Kathy Chen as its Managing Director (MD) for greater China, which includes in Twitter’s view, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

kathy-chen_650x400_81461036902The move is defined by the messaging company as helping to identify ways in which Twitter’s platform and technology assets can be utilized to create further values.

Chen’s appointment sparked controversies as Twitter could be suspected for introducing Beijing-style censorship to the world at large and denying free speech to Chinese users particularly.

The background of Twitter’s first-ever China MD adds to the graveness of the matter. Chen, a former employee of the People’s Liberation Army has worked for a joint venture partly owned by China’s Ministry of Public Security, according to her online public profile in China and various news reports.

Chen followed her appointment with a series of tweets to give shout-outs to Communist Party news outlets and her frequent flier program. But her links to the ruling Chinese Communist Party left the Chinese twitter users disappointed. This sentiment is clearly being reflected in a cartoon by a Chinese political cartoonist living in Australia who goes by the handle @badiucao, where in Twitter’s logo is impaled on the yellow star that graces China’s flag.

13059288_1151569564887452_158218072_nAlthough China’s Great Firewall keeps the vast majority of Chinese people from using services such as Facebook, Instagram, Google and a growing list of sites, the Great Firewall can be scaled using virtual private networks.

Over the past 10 years Twitter has earned a small but loyal fan base, attracting a mix of users that includes some of the more ardent Communist Party critics and accounts run by the party-controlled press.

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