By Helene Fung
The Whitehouse announced that it will ban US transactions with ByteDance (the Chinese owner of video-sharing app TikTok), Tencent (the Chinese owner of social messaging app WeChat) and 11 individuals who it deems to have undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedom of expression.
The executive orders banning the two Chinese apps will start to take effect in 45 days, whereas the sanctions against the 11 individuals are in relation to a previous executive order signed by US President Donald Trump back on July 14.
The individuals named include a number of Hong Kong officials; most notably among themthe city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, current and former police commissioners,Secretaries for Security, Justice, and Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, plus officials from Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council.
The Trump administration called the Chinese apps “significant threats”. Mr Trump claims TikTok may be used to disinformation campaigns that benefits the Chinese Communist Party.
He also expressed national security concerns over WeChat’s automatic collection of information from its users, which “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information”.
The broad wording of the orders mean it will be up to US’s Commerce Secretary to identify transactions covered by the ban after the orders takes effect in mid-September; but it is possible that the ban would include hosting the apps on Apple and Google app stores.