“In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” a TikTok spokesperson told the news agency.
Last month, China’s parliament passed a national security legislation for Hong Kong that would override local laws and give sweeping powers to security agencies. The unprecedented law is aimed at curbing protests – which rocked Hong Kong last year – and prohibiting subversion, separatism, “acts of foreign interference”, and terrorism. These charges are often used in the Chinese mainland to stifle dissidents and political opponents. The new law will also allow China’s security personnel to operate in Hong Kong.
The statement came days after social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter said they were suspending any cooperation with the Hong Kong police over sharing information. WhatsApp, Google and Telegram have also announced that they would make changes in their Hong Kong operations in view of the new security law.
TikTok is owned by China-based company ByteDance, which operates a similar short video-sharing application called Douyin in mainland China. TikTok has in the past been accused of removing videos that hurt Chinese interests, Bloomberg reported, citing instances such as the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, mistreatment of Muslims in Xinjiang, and India-China border skirmishes.
Under the new law, certain political views and symbols, including those showing support for Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet independence, are now illegal.
The new legislation came after people in Hong Kong held anti-Beijing protests for months from June 2019. China said the security law was necessary to stop the type of protests seen in Hong Kong. Critics say China’s law ends the freedoms that were guaranteed for 50 years under the “one country, two systems” agreement when British rule ended in 1997.
Meanwhile, United States’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the US was looking at banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps. “I don’t want to get out in front of the President (Donald Trump), but it’s something we’re looking at,” Pompeo said.
Last month, India banned 59 mobile applications, including TikTok, that have Chinese links as diplomatic relations between India and China plummeted after a violent clash on the Line of Actual Control.