“In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” a company spokesman told the Reuters news agency. The source said the move was made because it was not clear if Hong Kong would now fall entirely under mainland China’s jurisdiction.
On Monday, other international social media groups Facebook (which owns WhatsApp and Instagram), Telegram and Google said that they had suspended co-operation with Hong Kong authorities over user-data requests. Facebook said it was conducting a review. WhatsApp said it was conducting formal human-rights due diligence and consultations with human-rights experts.
The National Security Law was injected into Hong Kong’s mini constitution last week by Beijing after a yer of political turmoil in the former British colony. The legislation was not debated by Hong Kong legislators and the text of the law was only revealed at 11pm on Tuesday when it actually took effect.
The law targets terrorism, sedition, secession and collusion with foreign powers. It also breaks down the separation of the legal systems in mainland China and Hong Kong, which has been designated a special administrative area that kept its own laws, judicial system and currency. The new law will be upheld by aa combination of mainland security forces operating in Hong Kong for the first time, special prosecutors and judges chosen by the city’s Chief Executive. Serious and complicated cases can be moved over to the mainland.
TikTok is owned by Chinese unicorn ByteDance. But the company has repeatedly said that it does not share data with the Chinese government, does not operate Chinese censorship standards, and cannot be accessed in China. Bytedance has a largely similar, but separate, app called Douyin, which is tailored for the mainland Chinese market.
TikTok has been downloaded more than 2 billion times, and recently claimed 150,000 users in Hong Kong.
Despite TikTok, now run by former Disney executive Kevin Mayer, apparently hewing to western standards of conduct, the company was last week one of several Chinese-owned apps that were banned in India. That followed a deadly border dispute between India and China.