Chinese Businessman Buys Australian PM’s WeChat Account Because It ‘Has A Lot of Followers’

Australian politicians are crying foreign interference. The account’s new owner claims he doesn’t even know who Scott Morrison is.
Gavin Butler
Melbourne, AU
scott morrison wec
The move has been met with condemnation from members of the Australian government, several of whom are now calling for a boycott of WeChat. Photo by Lukas Coch - Pool/Getty Images (L) and Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images (R)

Several members of Australia’s federal government have vowed to boycott the Chinese social media platform WeChat after a Chinese company seized and renamed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s account.

Morrison’s profile, which boasts about 75,000 followers, was taken over and rebranded as “Australian-Chinese New Life” earlier this month. Its new description: “Providing living in Australia information for the Chinese community.”


“Thank you for your continued interest in our WeChat public account,” reads a post on the account. “Scott Morrison, the WeChat public account you previously followed, has moved all its operations and functions to this WeChat public account.”

The move has been met with condemnation from members of Australia’s coalition government, several of whom have accused the Chinese government of foreign interference in Australia’s domestic politics just months out from a federal election. 

“In an election year especially, this sort of interference in our political processes is unacceptable, and this matter should be taken extremely seriously by all Australian politicians,” Chinese-Australian MP Gladys Liu said in a statement on Monday. “Because of these concerns, I will no longer be using my official or personal WeChat accounts to communicate until the platform explains itself.”

The man who bought the account, however, has denied that the takeover was in any way politically motivated.

“I don't even know who [Scott] Morrison is,” Huang Aipeng, the chief executive of Fuzhou 985 Information Technology, told the ABC this month. “I saw the account has a lot of followers, so we bought it.”

Huang acquired the account from its original owner – a Chinese national from Fuzhou registered only as Mr Ji – in November for an undisclosed price. He is refusing to hand the account back to the Prime Minister's Office, noting that the transfer of ownership was approved by WeChat, and is planning to delete all the content previously posted by Morrison.


It’s worth noting that the very reason Morrison was able to have a profile on WeChat, which does not allow foreign nationals to operate public accounts, was because his office set it up through a Chinese agency using a Chinese national – Mr Ji – as the account operator. The account, opened in January 2019, was registered in Mr Ji’s name while being used to deliver political messaging to Chinese Australian voters.

WeChat is owned by Tencent, one of China’s largest tech companies. A spokesman told the ABC there had been no hack of the Prime Minister's account and “based on our information, this appears to be a dispute over account ownership.”

“The account in question was originally registered by a PRC [People’s Republic of China] individual and was subsequently transferred to its current operator, a technology services company,” they said. “[This] will be handled in accordance with our platform rules.”

While it is against the platform rules for foreign nationals to open and operate WeChat accounts, selling accounts is also forbidden – despite being a relatively common practice in China.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s WeChat account remains active and undisrupted. Albanese said he would seek to meet with Morrison to discuss any national security implications of WeChat tampering with the PM’s account.

Follow Gavin Butler on Twitter.

Read more from VICE Australia.