Twitter on the back foot over new China MD's credentials

Concerns have been expressed over Kathy Chen's military background and tweets embracing Chinese state media.

Kathy Chen

Twitter is already facing questions just a few days after announcing the hiring of Kathy Chen as the social media platform’s China managing director, despite the network being blocked in the country.

Chen was unveiled last week, and opened her own personal Twitter account just last month. Twitter is not entering mainland China given that its service remains blocked.

She joined from Microsoft and before that worked at Cisco Systems, as part of a 20-year career in the private sector.

However, it is her jobs before that, when she worked as a software engineer for the People’s Liberation Army, and later for cyber security firm Computer Associates that is part-owned by the government’s security ministry, which have caused controversy.

The Twitterati in China, who use bypasses to access the platform because it is blocked, have expressed concerns over Chen’s background. 

— ??? (@lss007) April 17, 2016

Twitter issued a statement defending Chen’s credentials. "In the late 1980s, the Chinese government often directed Chinese university graduates into their first jobs," the statement reads.

"When the Chinese economy further opened up with reform in the early 1990s, Kathy chose to pursue her passion for a technology career by switching to the private sector in 1994."

China’s Ministry of Public Security only had a minority 20 percent stake in Computer Associates, and Chen never worked for the ministry.

Twitter said Chen’s leadership "will provide more of Twitter Inc's enterprise offerings - such as advertising, customer service, data analytics and developer platform - to Chinese businesses and startups to help them reach a global audience".

However, Chen appears to have caused more problems for herself with a couple of tweets expressing her desire to work closely with CCTV and Xinhua news agency, the two largest government mouthpieces in China. 

Being a blocked platform, Twitter has become something of a haven for dissidents and political activists in China, and these tweets, perceived as cosying up to the controlling state media, have caused a stir in the online community.

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