CHINESE Twitter users expressed concern and derision over the social media company’s appointment of a managing director for its Greater China operations due to her past working with China’s military and state security apparatus.
The appointment was also perceived as odd since the Twitter is not even allowed to operate on the Chinese mainland. It does, however, maintain a Hong Kong office which seeks advertisers from the mainland.
Kathy Chen was appointed last week to be Twitter’s first managing director for China, based in Hong Kong, to oversee advertising.
Chen introduced herself in a video on Twitter:
— Twitter GCN (@TwitterGCN) April 15, 2016
Since then, Chinese users of the US microblogging site have raised concerns over Chen’s connections to Beijing and wondered if their freedom of speech on the platform would be compromised.
Chen’s overtures have been met with skepticism to say the least:
Uh, so new Twitter China MD is talking about working w/ state media. Awkward when Twitter remains blocked in China. https://t.co/uOyYFvFItD
— Joanna Chiu 趙淇欣 (@joannachiu) April 17, 2016
Chen is a bad choose for Twitter to appointedher as the executive of China?just because the relationship between Chen and Chinese military?
— 注册不了zxl (@zhucebuliaozxl) April 17, 2016
Although blocked in China, Twitter is a popular platform for Chinese — especially those living overseas — to freely express themselves in their native language.
Chen once worked for a military research institute and at a company with state security connections. According to Hong Kong Free Press, which cited Baike (China’s version of Wikipedia), she was previously a member of People’s Liberation Army’s Second Artillery. She has not openly responded to Twitter user concerns.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press