Religion & Liberty Online

Banned by TikTok: The CCP Doesn’t Want You to See The Hong Konger

Shou Chew, CEO, TikTok Inc., speaking at a hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce at the U.S. Capitol. (Image credit: Associated Press)

TikTok suspended the Acton Institute’s account with no explanation. Could it be due to the millions of views The Hong Konger: Jimmy Lai’s Extraordinary Struggle for Freedom has garnered so far?

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TikTok and its overseers within the Chinese Communist Party have suspended the Acton Institute’s TikTok account for continuing to tell the story of the Chinese crackdown on civil rights in Hong Kong.

The suspension took effect on Tuesday, with no prior warning given, little more than two weeks after Acton launched its YouTube premiere of The Hong Konger, a landmark documentary chronicling the CCP’s tactics of repression against Hong Kong’s freedom fighters and censorship of pro-democracy media outlets in that city. Although Acton’s account was partially restored hours later, several clips from the documentary remain censored under nebulous community-guidelines violations.

The Hong Konger traces the journey of entrepreneur and democracy advocate Jimmy Lai, thrown in prison in December 2020 for the crime of standing up for a free Hong Kong. Videos of discussions of Lai’s treatment as the CCP’s political prisoner are still missing from Acton’s TikTok’s account—again, with no explanation. Also removed were interviews with Hong Kongers describing their joint struggle for the restoration of civil rights in their city after the Xi Jinping regime imposed a draconian National Security Law (NSL).

Rev. Robert A. Sirico, Acton’s president emeritus and Lai’s personal friend, noted that TikTok’s actions are par for the course when it comes to upholding the CCP narrative: “TikTok’s suspension of the Acton Institute’s account for telling the truth about Jimmy Lai’s plight is both deplorable and predictable.”

Jimmy Lai, 75, sits in solitary confinement in a Chinese prison, shackled in 35-pound handcuffs. The CCP has harangued him at every turn, denying him access to his legal team and slamming him with charges of conspiracy and foreign collusion that, if “proven” in court according to the stipulations of the NSL, could mean a life sentence for the former fashion mogul. Lai’s story has captured the imaginations of people around the world, gaining receptive audiences in the United States and the United Kingdom as well as within international organizations such as Reporters Without Borders and the United Nations. Lai and other Hong Kong freedom fighters have even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize—but their story is being throttled on TikTok’s platform.

TikTok and its Chinese parent company, Bytedance, have apparently decided that censoring the truth about the CCP and its persecution and jailing of journalists is part and parcel of its business model. As Lai’s September 2023 trial approaches, much more than the freedom of a single man is at stake—the last vestiges of Hong Kong’s freedom hang in the balance. Attention to Lai’s plight is crucial at this very moment, and the CCP will stop at nothing to quash the story that viewers in the millions have logged on to experience. But the Acton Institute isn’t backing down from the fight to getting this story out to the world. In Fr. Sirico’s words, “Truth has a way of interring its undertakers.”

The Hong Konger is the film the CCP simply doesn’t want you to watch. So watch it here.

Isaac Willour

Isaac Willour is a journalist currently reporting on American politics and higher education. His work has been published in a plethora of outlets, including the Christian Post, The Dispatch, the Wall Street Journal, and National Review, as well as interviews for New York Times Opinion and the American Enterprise Institute. He studies political science at Grove City College. He can be found on Twitter @IsaacWillour.