A prominent academic has hit out at Chinese tech giant Tencent , accusing it of “trampling on civil rights” after his sixth WeChat account was deleted last week. Peking University law professor He Weifang , a long-standing advocate for legal reform and speech rights in China, made the protest in a handwritten letter dated February 3 and circulated online. He said his sixth account, registered last month under the screen name “Old Crane”, was deleted in January by the operators of WeChat, also known as the “everything app” in China. “WeChat has become an essential part of daily lives [in China]. Deleting the account wasn’t just a hindrance to online communication with friends but made transport, shopping and public health code screenings impossible,” He wrote. In the letter, He called on others to join him in protest against the social media network operator. “I am issuing a severe condemnation against the barbaric act of Tencent and calling on more victims to speak out against the injustice and put a stop to such law-infringing acts,” the professor wrote. The case against zero-Covid excesses: Chinese lawyers speak out He told the South China Morning Post on Monday that he had yet to consider taking further legal action against Tencent but had registered a seventh account and would wait to see if it too was deleted. The professor said he had not come under any pressure since publishing the letter last week but would refrain from making further public comments in hopes of retaining the account. “I started a fifth account in October and stayed away from any politically sensitive topics in WeChat Moments and group chats. There was nothing but fragmented chatter far from reality but even that was not enough to spare it from being axed on January 8,” he said. He then registered his sixth account “Old Crane” but it too was deleted on January 31. “Who has given the administrators of Tencent, a private corporation, such a powerful right to implement the law and make unquestioned rulings against civilian speech by arbitrarily terminating clients’ accounts without providing any means for appeal?” He wrote. Lack of free speech in China helped spread of coronavirus, says professor The professor is one of a number of liberal-leaning intellectuals who have been silenced or censured for dissenting views in recent years. Two years ago, He was one of a number of Chinese intellectuals who criticised the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak after the death of whistle-blower doctor Li Wenliang , and soon had their accounts suspended. In February 2020, He said a lack of oversight by the media, poor governance and an information blackout were the main factors contributing to the spread of Covid-19. He tried to bypass censors by putting the criticism in a handwritten note and putting it online but the post was soon deleted and his WeChat account was suspended. Zhang Qianfan, another Peking University law professor, also had his WeChat account suspended for three days during the same time after reposting He’s article. In 2020, the Cyberspace Administration of China punished a range of social media platforms and publishers for content it deemed unsuitable and misleading. It “supervised and guided” owners of the country’s most popular social platforms including Weibo’s owner Sina, Tencent and ByteDance, which operates Douyin, known outside China as TikTok. Tencent did not immediately respond to a request for comment.