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China accuses US of using 'digital gunboat diplomacy' after Trump orders TikTok to divest ops

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The ByteDance logo is seen on a building in Beijing on July 8. (Via GETTY IMAGES)

China has censured the United States for using “digital gunboat diplomacy” after US President Donald Trump issued an executive order extending an ultimatum forcing the popular Chinese-based company TikTok to divest its business operations in the country. 

“Freedom and security are just pretexts for some American politicians to conduct digital gunboat diplomacy,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a daily press briefing in Beijing on Monday.

On Friday, Trump issued an executive order extending video-sharing platform TikTok's deadline from 45 days to 90 days to either sell or spin off its US operations.

Trump had originally ordered TikTok's Chinese-owned mother company, ByteDance, to divest its US operations by November 12.

In the new order, the company is required to destroy any data gathered from US users and report it to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States once all the data has been destroyed. 

TikTok precursor app, which the company bought in 2017, must also destroy all it data.

The original order, which had a 45-day deadline ending on September 20, did not include any of these new requirements.

Trump has claimed TikTok's activities constitute a threat to US national security.

Last week, TikTok said that it was “shocked by the recent executive order, which was issued without any due process.”

The app said in a statement that it spent nearly a year trying to engage in "good faith" with Washington to address its concerns.

According to reports, the Trump administration is forcing ByteDance to hand over TikTok's US operations to American international technology company Microsoft.

Zhao further stressed that TikTok had done everything required by Washington, including hiring only Americans as its top executives, hosting its servers in the United States and making public its source code.

But the social media app has been "unable to escape the robbery through trickery undertaken by some people in the US based on bandit logic and political self-interest", Zhao added.

In the meantime, TikTok's American employees are set to sue the Trump’s administration over a ban on the popular video-sharing service. Mike Godwin, a lawyer representing TikTok's employees, said the company's legal challenge to Trump's executive order will be separate from a pending lawsuit lodged by ByteDance.

The US has long been using national security concerns as an excuse to impose a ban on Chinese communication apps and technologies.

It has already targeted Chinese tech companies, including telecom giant Huawei, over allegations of security threats.

Relations between the US and China have recently hit the lowest level in decades. The two are at loggerheads over a number of other issues, including trade, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and the coronavirus pandemic.

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