Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings censored an article by one of its own staff researchers published on Friday that discussed the country’s widening gap in the digital economy with the US and stressed the importance of the tech sector amid Beijing’s ongoing crackdown on related industries. The move came hours after news broke Friday night that a district procuratorate in Beijing launched a lawsuit against Tencent alleging that the “youth mode” on WeChat, the country’s most popular social media platform, does not comply with laws protecting minors. The article, titled “Warning of the widening gap in the digital economy between China and the US”, said that domestic Big Tech companies, which saw rapid growth from 2016 to 2018, are now slowing down and falling behind those in the US in terms of both revenue and market capitalisation. Tencent targeted by Beijing prosecutor for litigation over WeChat issues China’s tech industry is at a low point, the article said, and the country must “tightly grasp the historical opportunity of information development and digital revolution” to avoid repeating the mistake of missing out on previous industrial revolutions. The article, by Tencent Research Institute senior researcher Yan Deli, was published on Friday evening on both Tencent’s website and the institute’s official WeChat account. It was removed from both platforms. Tencent did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday. The article’s removal highlights the current sensitivity of the topic. The piece drew attention to the market cap of Big Tech companies at a time when their valuations have been hammered by sell-offs sparked by regulatory crackdowns and state media headlines . The market cap of Tencent and Alibaba Group Holding , the sixth and seventh most valuable internet companies in the world, respectively, made up 13.3 per cent of the total valuation of the global industry’s top seven companies by the middle of this year, according to the article. That is down from the 23.8 per cent they had at the end of 2017, and even lower than the 17.4 per cent they accounted for at the end of 2015. The article also issued warnings about the industry’s revenue growth. China’s top eight internet companies, including Tencent and Alibaba, the owner of the South China Morning Post , had once seen significantly faster revenue growth than their overseas peers. In 2018, the companies’ revenue growth averaged 118.9 per cent, while revenue growth for the top nine US firms averaged just 25 per cent. That gap narrowed in 2019 and 2020, when the Chinese companies’ growth averaged 37.3 per cent and 32.1 per cent, respectively, while the US firms averaged 19.2 per cent and 19.5 per cent. The average growth for the Chinese firms was largely pulled up by the rapid ascent of Pinduoduo , which grew by 652.3 per cent in 2018. Still, among the companies that have seen declining revenue growth the past three years, the Chinese firms’ decline has been sharper, according to the article’s data. The article’s appearance and swift removal comes at a critical juncture for China’s tech sector. Since the end of last year, Beijing has unleashed a number of new measures, lawsuits and regulations targeted at Big Tech, covering a range of issues from antitrust to data security. WeChat resumes new user registrations after ‘security upgrade’ In one of the most recent moves from China’s antitrust authority, Tencent was ordered to end exclusive music licensing deals with global record labels. Tencent, Alibaba and ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing were also all fined last month over irregularities related to past merger deals. Also last month, Didi became the first tech company subjected to a cybersecurity review after it listed on the New York Stock Exchange against the wishes of the country’s cyberspace authority. The company was forced to stop registering new users and its apps were removed from app stores. Just this past week, China’s top state propaganda organs called for better culture and art criticism that puts “social values first”. The agencies seek to limit the role of algorithms in promoting content online, which could mean higher compliance costs for internet giants like Tencent and TikTok .