Shutdown of Jimmy Lai Filmmaker’s TikTok Account Reversed After Censorship Outcry

‘TikTok‘s paymasters in the Chinese Communist Party don’t want people to hear the truth about #Jimmylai and #HongKong.’

Jimmy Lai.
Jimmy Lai. (photo: Promotional photo / Acton Institute)

Following public outcry over its apparent censorship of a new documentary about imprisoned Catholic Hong Kong pro-democracy advocate Jimmy Lai, TikTok has reversed its suspension of the account belonging to the film’s producer, the Michigan-based Acton Institute.

A spokesperson for the social media giant told the Wall Street Journal late Wednesday that the filmmaker’s account “was removed in error and is available again on platform.”

CNA sought a further explanation from TikTok but did not receive a response before publication.

Acton’s president emeritus Father Robert A. Sirico, who is the executive producer of the film and a personal friend of Jimmy Lai, responded to the suspension in a defiant tweet Wednesday afternoon.

“This is both deplorable and predictable. Yet, truth has a way of interring [its] undertakers,” the Catholic priest wrote.

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company that reportedly has links to the Chinese government. The company is currently trying to fend off bi-partisan efforts on Capitol Hill to restrict or outright ban TikTok in the U.S. because of privacy and security concerns.

The Acton Institute is a think tank based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, whose stated mission is “to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.”

Its documentary, The Hong Konger: Jimmy Lai's Extraordinary Struggle for Freedom, has garnered more than 1.3 million views since its April 18 release on YouTube and the website

Acton used its TikTok account to post short video clips and other content promoting the film.

“In just over a week, we had amassed 4+ million views of our TikTok content, 64K likes, and more than 27K followers,” Acton spokesman Eric Kohn said in one of a series of tweets he posted Wednesday detailing TikTok’s actions.

Kohn said in the first week TikTok removed one of the videos for “violent and graphic content.” He said the video shows Hong Kong police “teargassing and beating protestors in the streets.”

“We appealed that decision, noting that this content had been shared on numerous other social media platforms without any problems,” Kohn wrote, adding that the video was restored in a few hours.

Then on Tuesday Acton’s account was abruptly shut down, he said.

“No notice was given to us. No warning was given. No explanation was given. But we know why,” Kohn tweeted. “TikTok‘s paymasters in the Chinese Communist Party don’t want people to hear the truth about #Jimmylai and #HongKong.”

Kohn tweeted Wednesday night that Acton’s account was “partially restored” but noted that two of its videos had been removed for violating “community guidelines.”

Lai is a 75-year-old media tycoon, Catholic convert, and outspoken pro-democracy activist. He is in prison in Hong Kong for participating in a vigil there marking the 1989 Tiananmen massacre in Beijing, as well as for a fraud conviction in December 2022 . Lai is scheduled to go on trial in September on additional national security charges and could face a maximum penalty of life in prison.