TikTok is unwilling to confirm a plan to move its headquarters from the US to London without a public statement of support from the British government, the South China Morning Post has learned.But Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a split among his ministers over the £3 billion (US$3.9 billion) investment promised by the video-sharing app controlled by China’s ByteDance, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.
“TikTok has been sitting on the plan to relocate to London for weeks, pending a positive response from the government,” a source said. “If the government would not speak out in its favour, it would be very difficult for TikTok to make the move.”
The company has not replied to a request for comment. Last week, ByteDance said it had been “evaluating the possibility of establishing TikTok’s headquarters outside of the US to better serve our global users” without specifying where.
But for Johnson, or his officials, to put out a public display of solidarity with TikTok would risk uncertainty in his relationship with President Donald Trump, who last week signed an executive order, to take effect in 45 days, banning all dealings with TikTok and WeChat, another Chinese social media app.
Crucially, it is understood that Oliver Dowden, the British secretary for digital, culture, media and sport, harboured reservations about the TikTok deal. Dowden was the minister who announced the Huawei ban last month in Parliament, where he vowed to be “clear-eyed” about “high-risk” Chinese tech firms.