US President Donald Trump has issued an executive order banning any transactions with the Chinese owners of the apps TikTok and WeChat, starting in 45 days.
The orders on Thursday came as the Trump administration said it was stepping up efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from US digital networks and called the Chinese-owned short-video app TikTok and messenger app WeChat “significant threats”.
The TikTok app, owned by ByteDance, may be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party, and the US “must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security”, Trump said in one order.
In the other, the US president said WeChat, owned by China’s Tencent, “automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users” and that this data collection “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information”.
The moves come as Washington and Beijing clash on an array of issues, ranging from the novel coronavirus pandemic and Beijing’s policies in the South China Sea, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, to the US’s support for Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory.
TikTok said on Friday it was “shocked” by the move and it could go to US courts to ensure it was treated fairly.
“We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly – if not by the [Trump] Administration, then by the US courts,” TikTok said on its website.
China accused the United States of “arbitrary political manipulation and suppression” after Trump ordered the sweeping restrictions.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular press briefing the US move came at the expense of American users and companies.