TikTok to pull out of Hong Kong 'within days' amid concerns over security law

7 July 2020, 10:05

TikTok will reportedly leave Hong Kong within days
TikTok will reportedly leave Hong Kong within days. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

TikTok is to pull out of Hong Kong "within days" amid concerns over Beijing's sweeping national security law in the region.

The short-form video app, which is owned by ByteDance - a Beijing-based internet technology company - said in a statement it had decided to halt operations "in light of recent events."

TikTok's exit from the city will come "within days," according to Reuters.

It has become the latest social media firm to voice its concern over the possibility of providing user data to Hong Kong authorities - following in the footsteps of Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, Google and Twitter.

The tech companies are assessing the implications of the security law, which prohibits what the Chinese government views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in the city's internal affairs.

It comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Monday that the US is “looking at” banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps.

Read more: China warns Britain it will 'bear consequences of interference with Hong Kong'

Read more: China pledges to stop UK granting Hong Kong residents British citizenship

Foreign social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked in communist-ruled China by its "Great Firewall".

Critics fear the law will erase the legal divide between the former British colony and the and the mainland's authoritarian regime.

Facebook and its messaging app WhatsApp said in separate statements that they would freeze the review of government requests for user data in Hong Kong, "pending further assessment of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with international human rights experts."

For much of last year, large-scale and often violent anti-government protests riddled the streets of Hong Kong as the region's residents vehemently opposed proposals to extradite criminals to China's courts.

Read more: Hong Kong 2.0 'should be built on British Isles', says think tank director

Read more: PM offers route to UK for Hong Kong residents in wake of controversial new Chinese law

The extradition legislation has since been withdrawn.

However, the new security law now criminalises some pro-democracy slogans, such as the widely used "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time", which the Hong Kong government, led by chief executive says has separatist connotations.

The fear is that the law erodes the special freedoms of the semi-autonomous city, which has operated under a "one country, two systems" framework since China took control in 1997.

That arrangement has allowed Hong Kong's people freedoms not permitted in mainland China, such as unrestricted internet access and public dissent.