TikTok has announced plans to pull out of Hong Kong in the wake of a new national security law.
China has been flexing its muscle in Hong Kong, effectively ending the long-standing ‘one country, two systems’ rule. When Britain turned Hong Kong over to Beijing in 1997, its citizens were guaranteed 50 years of autonomy. Despite that, the Chinese government has been trying to exercise more control recently, leading to widespread protests.
In response, Beijing signed a national security law that gives authorities sweeping powers to punish secession and sedition, as well as search properties and prevent individuals being investigated from leaving the city.
Tech companies around the world have expressed concern that China may try to use their platforms for censorship or surveillance, by requiring user data to be stored in China. As a result, TikTok is taking action. A spokesperson told Axios that: “In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong.”
The move comes at a time when owner ByteDance is trying to distance TikTok from China. The company operates two similar platforms: TikTok for the world, and a government-approved version in mainland China, called Douyin. Given the allegations that TikTok can’t be trusted to protect user privacy, ByteDance is trying to prove it is not beholden to Beijing.
The next few weeks will likely be difficult for all of the social media networks as they come to terms with how—or if—they will continue operating in the city.