The owner of the Chinese social media platform WeChat insists there is “no evidence of any hacking or third-party intrusion” of Scott Morrison’s account.
Coalition members have vowed to boycott WeChat in retaliation for the prime minister’s account being taken over and rebranded as “Australian Chinese new life” earlier this month.
But WeChat’s owner, Chinese tech giant Tencent, says an ownership dispute is behind the rebranding of Morrison’s account and “there is no evidence of any hacking or third-party intrusion”.
“Based on our information, this appears to be a dispute over account ownership,” Tencent said in a statement on Monday.
“The account in question was originally registered by a PRC individual and was subsequently transferred to its current operator, a technology services company – and it will be handled in accordance with our platform rules.”
Tencent added it would continuing looking into the matter, and was committed to upholding the security of all WeChat accounts.
Chinese-Australian Liberal MP Gladys Liu earlier said she would be supporting a boycott of the platform because of “serious concerns of political interference”.
“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,” she said.
“Because of these concerns, I will no longer be using my official or personal WeChat accounts to communicate until the platform explains itself.”
The finance minister Simon Birmingham encouraged all Australians to reconsider their use of WeChat.
“This sort of political distorting of a communication platform … obviously deserves condemnation and shows that WeChat as a communications platform cannot be trusted,” he told Sky News.
Liberal senator James Paterson, who chairs parliament’s intelligence and security committee, said the blocking of Morrison’s account was sanctioned by the Chinese government and amounted to foreign interference.
“What the Chinese government has done by shutting down an Australian account is foreign interference of Australian democracy in an election year,” he told 2GB.
“It wouldn’t be at all surprising if those two events were connected.”
The treasurer Josh Frydenberg called on WeChat to restore access to the prime minister’s account.
“It’s something we would like to see rectified because it’s a method of communication to the Australian Chinese community which is very important,” he said.
“It should be on offer to politicians of all political persuasions, it shouldn’t be a political football. It’s very, very disappointing to see the prime minister prevented from having that access.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese flagged he would seek a meeting with Morrison to discuss any national security implications.
“I’ll be seeing (Morrison) this week because of the Australia Day commemorations in Canberra and I’ll have a chat with him directly,” the opposition leader told Brisbane radio station 4BC.
“National security should always be treated seriously, which is why I’m more than happy to have a discussion with either our (security) agencies or prime minister.”