China has accused the United States of “harassment” and threatened to take “necessary” countermeasures after Washington banned downloads of China’s video-sharing app TikTok and effectively blocked the use of it. super WeChat messaging app.
“China urges the United States to quit bullying, stop its wrongdoing, and seriously uphold fair and transparent international rules and order,” China’s Commerce Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
“If the United States insists on going its own way, China will take the necessary steps to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies. “
The U.S. Department of Commerce announced the bans on Friday, citing national security grounds, though China and businesses have refused to allow U.S. user data to be collected for espionage purposes.
Under Friday’s order, the Tencent-owned WeChat app would lose functionality in the US from Sunday. TikTok users will be banned from installing updates but will be able to continue to access the service until November 12.
The timeline gives TikTok’s parent group, ByteDance, some breathing space to strike a deal on the fate of its U.S. operations.
“We do not agree with the Commerce Department’s decision and are disappointed that it is blocking downloads of new applications from Sunday and banning the use of the TikTok application in the United States from November 12. “ByteDance said in a statement.
“We will continue to challenge the unfair executive decree. “
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TikTok says it has 100 million US users and 700 million worldwide.
‘Very very popular’
Friday’s order follows weeks of trading on TikTok, with US President Donald Trump pressuring ByteDance to sell US TikTok operations to a national company in order to address Washington’s concerns over data collection of TikTok and related issues.
California tech giant Oracle recently struck a deal with TikTok in this regard, though details remain unclear.
Trump said on Friday he was open to a deal, noting that “we have great options and maybe we can keep a lot of people happy,” suggesting that even Microsoft, which said its TikTok offer had been rejected, could continue to be involved, as well as Oracle and Walmart.
Trump noted that TikTok was “very, very popular,” said “we must have full security from China,” and added that “we can do a combination of the two.”
The bans are in response to a pair of executive orders issued by Trump on August 6 that gave the Commerce Department 45 days to determine which transactions to block from apps it considered a threat to national security. This period expires on Sunday.
The Trump administration has stepped up efforts to purge ‘unreliable’ Chinese apps from US digital networks amid mounting tensions with Beijing over a range of issues ranging from trade and human rights to the battle for supremacy technological.
The United States Civil Liberties Union has said the Commerce Department order “violates the First Amendment rights of people in the United States by restricting their ability to communicate and perform important transactions on both social media platforms.” .
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The action against WeChat, used by more than a billion people worldwide, prohibits the transfer of funds or the processing of payments to or from people in the United States through it. Users could also start to experience much slower service or sporadic outages from Sunday evening.
WeChat developer Tencent Holdings called the order “unfortunate,” but said it “will continue to discuss with the government and other stakeholders in the United States how to reach a long-term solution. term ”.
WeChat has an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics companies Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, expats, and some Americans who have personal or professional connections in China.
The order does not prohibit US companies from doing business on WeChat outside the US, which will be good news for US companies such as Walmart and Starbucks that use WeChat’s built-in “mini-app” programs to facilitate transactions and engage consumers in China, officials said. .
The order will not prohibit transactions with other Tencent businesses, including its online gaming operations, and will not prevent Apple, Google or others from offering TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside of the United States. .
WeChat users have filed a lawsuit to end the ban, and a California federal judge has scheduled an emergency hearing for Saturday at 1:30 p.m. PT on Friday.