TikTok plans to withdraw from Hong Kong within days


TikTok is reportedly pulling out of Hong Kong.

Angela Lang/CNET

TikTok said late Monday it plans to exit the Hong Kong market within days as several tech giants have announced they’re pausing the review of Hong Kong government requests for user data in reaction to a new national security law China imposed on the region that has curbed political expression.

“In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” a spokesperson for the Chinese video sharing app in Singapore told CNET, confirming an earlier report by Reuters.

The law, which took effect last week, criminalizes “secession, subversion, organization and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country.” Terrorist acts include arson and damaging public transportation. Those found guilty under the law could face life imprisonment.

Silicon Valley companies routinely receive requests for user data from governments throughout the world, including Hong Kong, as part of criminal investigations. Facebook, Twitter and Google are among companies that have said they would suspend operations in the region as they look more closely at the law.

The law has also prompted activists and writers to delete their social media accounts in case the government considers what they post subversive, according to The New York Times.

TikTok is a social media app where users, mostly teens and young adults, post videos of up to 15 seconds long, often synced with music. The app is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, currently the most valuable startup in the world

The app has surged in popularity in the first quarter of the year, logging more than 2 billion downloads from the Apple App Store and Google Play store, analytics firm Sensor Tower reported in April.

However, the app has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months. US lawmakers have accused the app of being a threat to national security, and the US Army and Navy have banned the app from government devices.

In an interview with Fox News on Monday night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration is aware of TikTok and considering a ban on the app.

“We’re certainly looking at it,” Pompeo said in response to an interviewer’s question. “We’ve worked on this very issue for a long time” citing the administration’s prohibitions against embattled China telecom gear maker Huawei.

The app has recently become a vehicle for political activism. After President Donald Trump’s official twitter account invited supporters to request tickets to an Oklahoma campaign rally on June 11, K-Pop fan accounts encouraged their followers to register for the event and then not attend. TikTok videos with millions of views encouraged viewers to do the same.

CNET’s Sareena Dayaram contributed to this report.

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