TikTok to cease operation in Hong Kong

It comes as China imposes its new national security laws in Hong Kong.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

TikTok has confirmed it will be exiting the Hong Kong market, following China's enforcement of its new national security laws in the country.

"In light of recent events, we've decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong," a TikTok spokesperson told ZDNet

The law, which came into effect last week, criminalises "secession, subversion, organization and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country". Those found guilty under the law could face life imprisonment.

While TikTok did not confirm when exactly it will be exiting from the semi-autonomous market, a spokesperson originally told Reuters it would happen "within days".

The Hong Kong market, however, is a small and non-profitable market for the viral video-sharing platform, which is owned by Beijing-based technology firm ByteDance.

Despite being a China-owned company, TikTok was designed so it could not be accessed by mainland China. Instead, ByteDance operates a similar platform called Douyin in China.

TikTok's announcement comes hours after tech giants Facebook, Twitter, and Google decided to pause any requests by the Hong Kong government for user information. 

As reported by sister publication CNET, the decision comes as the tech companies have decided to look more closely at what the new national security laws imposed by China mean. 

"We are pausing the review of government requests for user data from Hong Kong pending further assessment of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with international human rights experts," a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. 

A company spokesman said Twitter has "grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law".

Messaging app Telegraph has said it will also temporarily refuse data requests from the Hong Kong authorities.

"We understand the importance of protecting the right to privacy of our Hong Kong users under these circumstances," Mike Ravdonikas of Telegram told Hong Kong Free Press. "Accordingly, Telegram does not intend to process any data requests related to its Hong Kong users until an international consensus is reached in relation to the ongoing political changes in the city."

Despite TikTok's concerns over China's new laws, the platform itself has previously come under fire in the past over the way it handles user data.

Just yesterday, Australian Labor Senator Jenny McAllister shared her concerns that TikTok isn't entirely transparent about how it approaches Australian privacy laws.

"There are some specific concerns that have been raised by credible sources in recent years about TikTok. The first is that they're not entirely transparent or inadequately transparent about what happens with individual data," McAllister said, speaking on ABC RN Drive on Monday.

"The second is that it's not quite clear what their content moderation policies are. And there are concerns that some of these approaches to moderating content might be inconsistent with Australian values. For example, removing material about Tiananmen Square, or de-prioritising material about Hong Kong protests."

India last month banned the Chinese video-sharing app, along with 59 others, and the US Army in January reportedly banned the use of TikTok due to "security concerns".

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