TikTok, the popular short-form video app, says it will exit the Hong Kong market in response to the new national security law for the semi-autonomous city recently enacted by Beijing.
A spokesman for the company issued a statement Tuesday saying it was ending operations in Hong Kong “in light of recent events.”
TikTok’s announcement it would cease operating in Hong Kong coincides with the decisions by U.S. tech giants Facebook, Google and Twitter that they will suspend processing requests by the central government in Beijing for user data in Hong Kong following passage of the new law. The companies are blocked in mainland China due to the autocratic government’s so-called “Great Firewall,” but operate freely in semi-autonomous Hong Kong.
TikTok is owned and operated by China-based ByteDance. ByteDance owns a similar app called Douyin which is available on mainland China, where TikTok is unavailable. TikTok has long denied that its data can be accessed by the Chinese government, as its servers are located entirely outside of China.
But U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday the United States is considering banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps due to privacy concerns.
The law, which went into effect last week, calls for the central government to establish a national security office in Hong Kong aimed at confronting subversion of state power, terrorism, separatism and collusion with foreign forces. The new law was a response to the massive and often violent pro-democracy demonstrations that engulfed the financial hub in the latter half of 2019.
Critics say the measure effectively ends the “One Country, Two Systems” policy under which Hong Kong was promised a high degree of autonomy after the handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Hong Kong is a former British colony.