‘Actually Preposterous’: Rep. Anna Eshoo Rejects TikTok CEO’s Claim That China Hasn’t Accessed American User Data

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Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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Democratic California Rep. Anna Eshoo called out TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew on Thursday for claiming he has not seen evidence showing the Chinese government has access to American users’ data.

Chew was testifying before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce amid growing pressure for TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to sell the platform.

Chew claimed in his opening statement that TikTok and the Chinese government were not linked.

“How do you convince the Congress of the United States that there can be a clean break?” Eshoo pressed. “Why would the Chinese government sidestep their national law … in terms of user data?” (RELATED: Rep. Rodgers Warns TikTok CEO Lying Under Oath Is A Federal Crime After Question On Tiananmen Square)

Article 35 of the 2021 Data Security Law of the People’s Republic of China mentions that “national security organ[s]” have the power to “obtain data for the sake of national security,” and Article 48 imposes strict fines for failure to provide data requested under Article 35.

“I’m glad you asked this,” Chew responded. “As I said in the opening statement, our plan is to move American data to be stored on American soil.”

“I understand that,” Eshoo said, cutting Chew off, “but you’re sidestepping — or I haven’t read anything in terms of TikTok, how you can actually say — and you spoke in your opening statement about a firewall relative to the data, but the Chinese government has that data.”

“How can you promise that that will move into the United States of America and be protected here?” Eshoo pressed.

“Congresswoman, I have seen no evidence that the Chinese government has access to that data,” Chew testified. “They have never asked us. We have not provided.”

This testimony contradicts a June 2022 report from BuzzFeed, which revealed that China-based ByteDance employees had repeatedly accessed non-public data from US TikTok users.

“I find that actually preposterous,” Eshoo told Chew.

“I have looked and I have seen no evidence of this happening. And in order to assure everybody here and all our users, our commitment is to move that data into the United States, to be stored on American soil by an American company overseen by American personnel. So the risk will be similar to any government going to an American company asking for data,” Chew said.

“Well, I’m one that doesn’t believe that there is really a private sector in China,” Eshoo responded.