Chinese Embassy Reportedly Lobbied Directly Against TikTok Bill On Capitol Hill

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Nick Pope Contributor
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The Chinese Embassy has held closed-door meetings with congressional staff to lobby against a bill that would force a sale or ban of TikTok, according to Politico.

Chinese Embassy officials reportedly reached out to set up the meetings shortly after the House voted decisively in favor of the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, but did not specifically mention TikTok when they initially made contact, according to Politico, which granted several congressional staffers anonymity to speak freely. In one phone call placed to Capitol Hill staffers, an embassy official reportedly stated that the Chinese ambassador wanted to discuss the legislation. (RELATED: Ex-TikTok Employee Alleges American Executives Were ‘Completely Complicit’ In Giving ‘US Data To China’)

The legislation, which would force TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to sell the platform or otherwise see the popular social media app banned in the U.S. ,is stalling in the Senate after passing the House by a decisive margin in March.

TikTok has repeatedly denied that it is linked with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), but a former senior ByteDance employee has alleged that CCP members inside the company have “superuser” credentials and a “backdoor channel” to access American users’ data, while the app often promotes content for users that is aligned with the CCP’s agenda, according to a recent study by Network Contagion Research Institute and Rutgers University.

“For once, Chinese diplomats have done America a favor,” Michael Sobolik, a senior fellow for the American Foreign Policy Council who specializes in Indo-Pacific studies, told Politico. “By lobbying congressional staff to protect TikTok’s relationship with ByteDance, [People’s Republic of China] officials are revealing how valuable TikTok is to the Chinese Communist Party. Losing control of the app would neuter Beijing’s most potent weapon against Americans.”

During the meetings, Chinese Embassy officials generally downplayed worries about national security that surround TikTok, suggested that a forced sale from ByteDance would hurt American investors in the company and reiterated that not every member of the company’s board of directors are Chinese nationals, according to Politico. However, embassy officials reportedly characterized TikTok as a Chinese company, which stands at odds with the firm’s efforts to distance itself from China.

TikTok told Politico that its anonymously-sourced reporting “didn’t pass the smell test” and that these reported meetings were “news to [the company].”

However, the Chinese Embassy did not deny that such meetings had taken place, according to Politico, telling the outlet that it wants “to tell the truth about the TikTok issue to people from all walks of life in the U.S.”

One of the anonymous Capitol Hill staffers also pointed out that the Chinese Embassy mobilized in the past to fight against U.S. policy targeting Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications giant that is thought by opponents to pose major national security risks of its own, according to Politico.

TikTok did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

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