‘Your Platform Should Be Banned’: Congress Grills TikTok CEO on CCP Ties

‘Your Platform Should Be Banned’: Congress Grills TikTok CEO on CCP Ties
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 23, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Andrew Thornebrooke
3/23/2023
Updated:
3/30/2023
0:00

Members of Congress and the CEO of TikTok are engaging in a series of heated exchanges over the app’s ties to China’s communist regime, as the House holds a hearing on TikTok’s data privacy practices.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is appearing before a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee for the first time ever, in an attempt to defend the company’s data privacy practices and links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which rules China as a single-party state.

Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) opened the hearing with several salvos lambasting TikTok’s ties to the Chinese communist regime through its China-based parent company ByteDance.

“CCP laws require Chinese companies like ByteDance to spy on their behalf,” Rodgers said. “That means any Chinese company must grant the CCP access and manipulation capabilities as a design feature.”

“TikTok surveils us all, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is able to use this as a tool to manipulate America as a whole. We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee speaks during the hearing with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 23, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee speaks during the hearing with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 23, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CEO Seeks to Distance Himself From ByteDance 

The hearing comes as Congress and the Biden administration explore the possibility of forcing TikTok to be sold to an American company or else banning the app from the United States completely due to national security concerns.

Though Chew has tried to distance TikTok’s image from that of the China-based ByteDance, he himself has deep ties to the company, having previously served as its chief financial officer in Beijing.

Similarly, Chew is reportedly one of only 12 executives who report directly to ByteDance CEO Liang Rubo, as first reported by The Information.
Moreover, the apparent inseparability of TikTok and ByteDance was on full display when Chew arrived for the hearing flanked by prominent ByteDance lobbyists including Michael Beckerman. Though Beckerman serves as TikTok’s top government relations official, he ultimately reports his activities to the U.S. government under ByteDance’s name.

When asked by Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) about Beckerman’s presence and his previous refusals to acknowledge the ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region, Chew initially dodged.

“Can I clarify who you mean?” Chew asked.

“You know he’s here,” Palmer said. “He’s sitting right behind you.”

Chew ultimately demurred, and admitted that Beckerman was among the staff members who had prepared him for the interview with Congress.

Similarly, Chew appeared to attempt to further obfuscate TikTok and ByteDance’s ties to the CCP by refusing to acknowledge that ByteDance was a Chinese company at all, repeatedly insisting it was a global company that conducted activities in China.

ByteDance is headquartered in Beijing and maintains a CCP party committee within the company.

When pressed on the issue of whether TikTok’s data would ever be given to the CCP due to Chinese laws that require all data to be surrendered to the regime upon request, Chew again refuted the claim.

To that end, Chew said that it was “emphatically untrue” that TikTok was beholden to any Chinese laws, and further claimed that ByteDance was not owned by the CCP in any way.

“ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” Chew said.

“It is not owned or controlled by any government or state entity.”

Chew’s claim contradicts a report that the CCP purchased a direct share in ByteDance Beijing Technology in 2021. That deal also allowed the communist regime to directly appoint a board director to ByteDance’s Beijing office.

When asked directly if he knew about the CCP investment ahead of time, Chew appeared to deny its existence.

“This hasn’t happened,” Chew said.

Congress Has ‘Zero Confidence’ in TikTok

Chair Rodgers expressed concern over Chew’s apparent refusal to acknowledge its relationship with ByteDance and, ultimately, with the CCP.
To that end, she cited the spokesperson for the CCP’s ministry of commerce, who publicly condemned the potential sale of TikTok to an American company just hours before Chew’s testimony, and said that a forced sale would ultimately be decided by the communist regime.

“The CCP believes they have the final say over your company,” Rodgers said.

“I have zero confidence in your assertion that ByteDance and TikTok are not beholden to the CCP.”

Numerous organizations have warned about ByteDance’s “internal party committee.” Advocay group Human Rights Watch said the committee is chaired by ByteDance Vice President Zhang Fuping, and that employees “regularly gather to study President Xi Jinping’s speeches and pledge to follow the party in technological innovation.”
Before serving as CFO of ByteDance, Chew himself was an executive at Xiaomi Technology, a Beijing-based company later described as a “communist Chinese military company” by the Pentagon.
Likewise, Chew served as a board member at Kingsoft Cloud, which was blacklisted as a “national security” threat in January 2021.

To that end, Rodgers said that the company had demonstrated a continued willingness to push the regime’s party line, and appeared more willing to exert its power and influence than to do what was necessary to protect American citizens.

“TikTok has repeatedly chosen the path for more control, more surveillance, and more manipulation, Rodgers said.”

“Your platform should be banned.”

Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.
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