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Republicans Demand Answers About TikTok's Relationship with the Chinese Communist Party

Two Republicans in the House of Representatives demanded answers from TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew in a letter late last week after Chew dodged previous questions about TikTok’s relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.

The letter follows a BuzzFeed News scoop in June 17 that revealed that engineers at TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, accessed information about US users of the app in China.

In the letter, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and James Comer, the leading members of the Republican Party in House Energy and Commerce Committee and House Oversight Committee, respectively, described their concerns about how the popular app could be used by the Chinese government’s spy apparatus — and they followed up on an important issue that Chew had ignored.

“In 2017, the CCP passed the National Rep. People’s Public of China. This law requires individuals, organizations and institutions to assist CCP Public Safety and State Security officials in carrying out and carrying out ‘intelligence’ work,” McMorris Rodgers and Comer wrote. “Specifically, it requires those covered by the law to ‘support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work.’”

They added that personal information produced by TikTok users in the US – that require their users to agree to the collection of data, including location, search history, face prints and voice prints – “would be a huge national security risk in the hands of CCP intelligence. ”

After the BuzzFeed story broke last month, a group of senators led by Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee sent their own letter demanding answers from Chew. In his response, Chew admitted that China’s ByteDance employees had accessed US users’ data, but claimed they could only do so in accordance with a “robust” security process set by TikTok employees in the United States. He also dodged a simple and important question: “If the Chinese Communist Party asked you for US user data, what would stop you from providing it? Can the CCP compel you to provide this data, regardless of the answer? Can they access it regardless of the answer?”

In their own letter, Comer and McMorris Rodgers noted that Chew’s response to Blackburn “failed to address several key issues and, in fact, , raises others”. They also asked whether TikTok and ByteDance have determined that China’s intelligence law does not apply to their data.

The issue is critical because Beijing-based ByteDance has a well-documented history of cooperation with the Chinese security state and the Chinese Communist Party. Their corporate fortunes depend on the CCP’s willingness to let them flourish, which makes it unlikely that a demand for user data requested by Beijing will go unfulfilled.

In addition to retrieving the letter’s questions Earlier that Chew shunned, McMorris Rodgers and Comer also requested documents outlining the relationship between TikTok and Douyin, the TikTok-like app that ByteDance operates for Chinese users. The Chinese government owns a stake in Douyin, and US lawmakers have previously warned that TikTok’s official policy allows sharing of US user data with corporate affiliates such as Douyin.

Furthermore , McMorris Rodgers, and Comer requested specific information about which Chinese ByteDance employees can access US TikTok user data, internal corporate documents about the Trump administration’s failed efforts to ban the TikTok app in 2020 and a definitive answer to the question of whether ByteDance owns any of TikTok’s US offices.

As rapporteurs for their respective committees, McMorris Rodgers and Comer are seen as the members most likely to chair these panels if Republicans win a majority in the House in November. Therefore, its efforts to get to the bottom of TikTok’s negotiations with the Chinese Communist Party could set the stage for GOP-led investigations in the House next year.

In a statement to National Review, a spokesperson for TikTok acknowledged that the company had received the letter from McMorris Rodgers and Comer. The spokesperson, however, ignored questions about the letter’s content.

The BuzzFeed News report contradicts the sworn testimony of a top US TikTok official last year, as well as the strenuous efforts of other US TikTok employees to create the false impression among US employees, the US public and US TikTok users that the ByteDance team in China does not have access to US user data.

The report had such an impact, in fact, that Chew and other TikTok employees repeatedly tried to discredit it in public statements. A TikTok spokesperson told National Review that “BuzzFeed picked quotes from meetings” about efforts to protect US user data and added: “We are look forward to meeting with members of Congress to correct BuzzFeed’s misleading reporting record.”

The BuzzFeed revelations sparked bipartisan fury from lawmakers who said they had been misled by the technology company. chinese. In a letter to the president of the FTC , Lina Khan, earlier this month Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio, who are the chairman and rapporteur of the Senate Intelligence Committee, respectively, said the report suggested that “TikTok also misrepresented its corporate governance practices, including for congressional committees like ours.” They asked Khan to “act promptly” on these “repeated TikTok misrepresentations.”

Jimmy Quinn is the National Review’s national security correspondent

© National Review. Published with permission. Original in English.

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