The logo of Chinese social media app Weibo is seen displayed on a mobile phone in this illustrative photo taken December 7, 2021. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration/File Photo

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BEIJING, May 24 (Reuters) – A leading entrepreneur in China who had questioned the wisdom of the country’s zero COVID strategy has been banned from posting on Weibo, the social media platform accusing the co-founder of Trip.com (9961.HK), James Liang to violate laws.

Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, did not specify which laws Liang broke, and it was unclear when the ban went into effect or what triggered it. But on Tuesday, online users noticed changes to Liang’s account, which has 817,000 followers.

The account belonging to Liang, who is also executive chairman of China’s dominant travel platform, now displays a statement that the user is currently locked for “violation of relevant laws and regulations.”

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Reuters was unable to contact Liang via Trip.com, which owns Qunar and Skyscanner, and the company also declined to comment.

Weibo did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

Last week, Liang authored an article that was posted on the WeChat account of the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization think tank in which he argued that overly cautious epidemic prevention policies could inflict a greater pain to the economy and to people’s life expectancies than the virus itself. . The post was subsequently removed.

Authorities have become increasingly sensitive to public challenges to China’s zero-COVID policies and have adopted even tougher measures to stamp out the spread of the virus, while threatening to take action against criticism of their approach. Read more

China says it must stick to a zero-COVID strategy because easing curbs could cause high death tolls and overwhelm its medical system.

In April, Liang posted on Weibo an article he had written about the low mortality rate of the Omicron variant and the need for strict epidemic control in China.

A separate article he published in April in the China Enterprise News newspaper also warned that excessive COVID prevention measures could hurt China’s economy.

The COVID-19 strategy isn’t the only issue the Liangs have grappled with. In his latest Weibo post on April 29, Liang published an analysis explaining why China took so long to revise its one-child policy, a topic he has already discussed passionately on social media and in media outlets. media interviews.

While Liang has remained active on Weibo amid an increasingly stringent regulatory environment over the past two years, most other Chinese business leaders who were once outspoken have gone private on social media or stopped posting altogether. . Read more

Over the weekend, Pony Ma, the low-key founder of tech giant Tencent Holdings (0700.HK), caused a stir on social media by reposting an article on the increasingly sensitive topic of the economy. Chinese. Read more

Censorship has steadily tightened under Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to secure a third term in office at a congress later this year of the ruling Communist Party.

Other high profile Chinese people banned by Weibo include private equity investor Dan Bin and Wang Sicong, the son of Dalian Wanda founder Wang Jianlin.

As with Liang, specific reasons for their bans were not given, but Dan had questioned the feasibility of the zero-COVID policy and Wang had challenged the effectiveness of a government-approved traditional Chinese medicine to treat the virus.

($1 = 6.6654 yuan)

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Reporting by Sophie Yu and Brenda Goh; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.