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China says US 'suppressing' TikTok as UK also bans it

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)
China says the US has so far failed to produce evidence that TikTok threatens US national security.

China has urged the United States to stop "unreasonably suppressing" TikTok, after Washington and its allies took a hard approach to the app, which is owned by the Chinese firm Bytedance.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin made remarks during a regular briefing on Thursday after Washington gave the popular video-sharing app an ultimatum to part ways with its Chinese owners or face a nationwide ban.

"The US has so far failed to produce evidence that TikTok threatens US national security," Wang said.

"Data security issues should not be used as a tool for some countries to overstretch the concept of national security, abuse state power and unjustifiably suppress other countries' enterprises," Wang said.

The United States and the European Union have been taking an increasingly firm approach to the app, citing fears that user data could be used by Chinese officials.

On Wednesday, the White House was reported to have told the app that it will be banned in the United States if it continues to be owned by the Beijing-based tech firm.

Last week, the White House welcomed a bill introduced in the US Senate that would allow President Joe Biden to ban TikTok.

The bipartisan bill "would empower the US government to prevent certain foreign governments from exploiting technology services... in a way that poses risks to Americans' sensitive data and our national security," Biden's national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, said in a statement.

US government workers in January were banned from installing TikTok on their government-issued devices.  

Civil servants in the European Union and Canada are also barred from downloading the app on their work devices.

UK bans TikTok on government devices

And the UK looks set to follow suit, with British media reporting on Thursday that the app will be banned from UK government phones.

Britain's National Cyber Security Centre has been reviewing whether TikTok should be barred from government phones.

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden told parliament government devices would only be able to access third party appsfrom a pre-approved list.

"We are also going to ban the use of TikTok on government devices, we will so with immediate effect," he said.

The ban does not include personal devices and there would be limited exemptions where TikTok is required on government devices for operational reasons, Dowden added."This is a proportionate move based on a specific risk with government devices."

TikTok has said it would be disappointed by such a ban. 

The US government's ultimatum to TikTok reportedly came from an interagency board charged with assessing risks foreign investments pose to national security.

TikTok has consistently denied sharing data with Chinese officials, and says it has been working with US authorities for more than two years to address national security concerns.

A TikTok spokesperson said that "calls for a ban or divestment are unnecessary".

TikTok says it has more than a billion users worldwide including over 100 million in the United States, where it has become a cultural force, especially among young people.

Time spent by users on TikTok has surpassed that spent on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and it is closing in on streaming titan Netflix, according to market tracker Insider Intelligence.

Activists argue a ban would be an attack on free speech, and stifle the export of American culture and values to TikTok users around the world.

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