Beijing insists it would never ask any Chinese company to collect data or intelligence abroad.
China has rejected charges by US officials that TikTok is used to collect Americans’ data, rebutting the claims after the company’s CEO was grilled by lawmakers in Washington amid growing calls to ban the popular video-sharing app.
Asked about TikTok chief Shou Zi Chew’s contentious appearance before the US Congress this week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning argued that the People’s Republic “takes data privacy and security very seriously.”
“The Chinese government has never asked and will never ask any company or individual to collect or provide data, information or intelligence located abroad against local laws,” she said on Friday, adding that Washington “has provided no evidence or proof that TikTok threatens US national security, yet it has repeatedly suppressed and attacked the company based on the presumption of guilt.”
Mao went on to cite Democratic Congressman Mark Pocan, who has opposed efforts by some lawmakers to outright ban TikTok in the US, and accused them of conducting a “xenophobic witch hunt.” She urged the US government to “respect the principles of market economy and fair competition,” and to stop “suppressing” foreign companies operating in the country.
During a congressional hearing on Thursday, Chew faced heated criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, with Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers opening the event by declaring “Your platform should be banned.”
A number of representatives alleged nefarious ties between TikTok and Beijing, though Chew noted that his company is based in Los Angeles and does not take marching orders from China’s ruling Communist Party.
Congresswoman Anna Eshoo of California, a Democrat, appeared to become indignant after the CEO denied that the Chinese government has access to TikTok’s data, saying “I find that actually preposterous.” While Chew pointed out that no evidence has ever been put forward to support the allegation, many lawmakers remained skeptical regardless.
The US federal government and at least 25 state administrations have passed legislation prohibiting TikTok on official devices, according to a recent tally by Yahoo Finance.
Though no full ban has been passed as of yet, many officials were prompted to take action after FBI Director Christopher Wray claimed the Chinese government could access data gathered by the app. Despite the continued accusations, both TikTok and Beijing have repeatedly denied that the site is used for surveillance or data collection.