TikTok yesterday denied sharing users’ data with the Chinese government, after India banned the wildly popular app as ties with Beijing deteriorate sharply following a deadly border clash.
Blaming each other for the brutal hand-to-hand battle on June 15 as talks make little headway, the two countries have been bolstering their border forces as anti-China sentiment grows in India.
As India reportedly considered hiking tariffs and with some Chinese imports held up at ports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on Monday banned 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, WeChat and Weibo.
The Ministry of Information Technology said the apps “are engaged in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
The move mirrored growing unease about Chinese tech firms in other countries, in particular regarding telecom giant Huawei.
TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, allows users to upload and share short videos and is spectacularly popular in India – its 120mn users have made it the app’s top international market.
Yesterday, the head of TikTok India issued a statement saying the firm has “not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese government”.
“Further if we are requested to in the future we would not do so,” Nikhil Gandhi said, adding that “hundreds of millions of users, artists, story-tellers, educators and performers...(depend) on it for their livelihood.”
It remains unclear, however, how the bans would work, with Indians who have downloaded TikTok on their phones still able to use the app yesterday.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing that China is “strongly concerned” about the announcement and looking into the situation.
He said the country has always asked Chinese firms to abide by international rules and local laws as they work with foreign parties, adding that China-India co-operation is mutually beneficial and damaging this is not in India’s interest.
China and India have long had a prickly relationship.
But the border clash was the first deadly violence on their disputed Himalayan border in 45 years, claiming the lives of 20 Indian soldiers.
Chinese casualties are unknown.
The Indian deaths triggered outrage on social media with calls to boycott Chinese products.
Ties were strained last August when New Delhi revoked the semi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and split off Ladakh into a new administrative territory.
Since the latest clash, the nuclear-armed neighbours have reinforced the border between Ladakh and Tibet.
India has deployed thousands more troops and is conducting extra military flights over the mountainous region.
“Those who cast an evil eye on Indian soil in Ladakh have got a befitting response,” Modi said in his weekly radio address on Sunday.
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