HONG KONG (LifeSiteNews) – When the Beijing-run social media app TikTok attempted to suppress a video telling the story of one of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) greatest enemies — the imprisoned, Catholic, pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai — the move backfired and forced the company to lift its censorship of voices critical of the totalitarian regime.
The film was produced by the Michigan-based Acton Institute, whose account was temporarily suspended May 2 after it posted video clips from its documentary, “The Hong Konger: Jimmy Lai’s Extraordinary Struggle for Freedom.”
Eric Kohn, Acton Institute spokesman and the film’s producer, denounced the suppression in a series of posts on Twitter, saying, “No notice was given to us. No warning was given. No explanation was given. But we know why. TikTok’s paymasters in the Chinese Communist Party don’t want people to hear the truth about #Jimmylai and #HongKong.”
“Know this: this is the film TikTok and China don’t want you to see. Stream it now at https://freejimmylai.com.”
“We’re telling the truth about how China is stripping Hong Kongers of their human rights and persecuting pro-democracy activist #JimmyLai and others.”
The @ActonInstitute‘s @tiktok_us account was suspended yesterday, without notice or explanation.
We’re telling the truth about how China is stripping Hong Kongers of their human rights and persecuting pro-democracy activist #JimmyLai and others.
— Eric Kohn 🥃 (@iEricKohn) May 3, 2023
Fr. Robert Sirico, executive producer of the documentary and president emeritus of the Acton Institute who is a personal friend of Lai, called the suspension “deplorable and predictable.” “Yet, truth has a way of interring [its] undertakers,” he said.
This is both deplorable and predictable. Yet, truth has a way of interring it’s undertakers.
— Rev. Robert Sirico (@robertsirico) May 3, 2023
The video clips had gained an incredibly large audience of several million views within a short time, Kohn explained. “In just over a week, we had amassed 4+ million views of our TikTok content, 64K likes, and more than 27K followers,” he said.
Before TikTok’s suspension of the Anton Institute account, Sirico retweeted a short video on Lai from the account Support Jimmy Lai, which stated, “This man is a journalist imprisoned for doing his job. This man is Jimmy Lai. #FreeJimmyLai #JournalismIsNotACrime.”
This man is a journalist imprisoned for doing his job. This man is Jimmy Lai.#FreeJimmyLai #JournalismIsNotACrime pic.twitter.com/crDXJP9l4g
— Support Jimmy Lai (@SupportJimmyLai) April 21, 2023
Apparently, TikTok “partially restored” Acton’s account on May 3, but two videos were still removed.
The suspension gained the attention of U.S. lawmakers, with Congressman John Moolenaar of Michigan stating in a press release, “CCP-controlled TikTok just censored a West Michigan think tank for telling the truth. This is yet another example of how the CCP uses its resources in America to expand its influence over our communities. TikTok claims to be independent from the CCP, but this shows otherwise. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ban TikTok or force its sale to an American company.”
TikTok has previously censored videos deemed unfavorable to the CCP, such as those that mention the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square or the spiritual group Falun Gong, which the CCP has banned in China.
In a summary of Lai’s story accompanying the film, the Anton Institute wrote, “As China retreated from its ‘one nation, two systems’ policy and began installing pro-Beijing leaders in Hong Kong, Jimmy [Lai] became a leading voice against repressive policies. Jimmy could have fled but he chose to stay, marching alongside millions of his fellow Hong Kongers in defense of freedom and democracy. He was soon arrested and jailed. International banks froze his assets. Apple Daily was raided and key executives arrested. In June 2021, Apple Daily printed its final edition and shut its doors.”
“Today Jimmy perseveres in a Hong Kong prison cell awaiting trial. Featuring Lord Christopher Patten, Rev. Robert Sirico, Mary Kissel, Victoria Hui, Joey Siu, William McGurn, Lord David Alton and others, The Hong Konger chronicles Jimmy’s story of heroic sacrifice and symbol of the freedom movement. From his own testimony as well as through exclusive interviews with diplomats, citizen activists, scholars, and friends from across the globe, one thing becomes clear: Jimmy’s fate is in our hands. His cause must not die in a prison cell — for freedom is not merely his cause, but the cause of all Hong Kongers, the Chinese people, and indeed all humanity.”
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