BEIJING (AP) — A popular Chinese instant messaging service has removed at least 40 accounts with content about political, economic and legal issues in a possible sign communist authorities are tightening control over discussion of sensitive topics.
The accounts were closed Thursday on WeChat, a service run by TenCent Holdings Ltd. The action came hours after the closing of the eight-day annual session of China's ceremonial legislature.
The accounts that were removed were deemed public, meaning any user of the service could sign up to see them. Such accounts have been used by intellectuals, journalists and activists to comment on politics, law and society, and to post news reports shunned by mainstream media. Some accounts attract hundreds of thousands of followers.
The communist government encourages Internet use for education and business but operates an extensive monitoring system. Operators of social media are required to enforce censorship rules against material deemed subversive or obscene.
The move came two weeks after the ruling Communist Party announced the creation of an Internet security group led by President Xi Jinping.
Wen Yunchao, a researcher and Internet rights activist who lives in New York City, said the timing of the removals might have been planned to avoid having reporters ask about it at the meeting of the National People's Congress that closed Thursday morning.