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In recent weeks, TikTok owner ByteDance revealed its desire to relocate its global headquarters to London, and the app developer is said to be waiting for an official response from the UK government prior to moving forward with the plan.
“China hawks”, led by UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss, are making a “last-ditch” attempt to block a Downing Street welcome to TikTok parent company ByteDance’s plan to move its global headquarters to London, which currently hosts the company’s largest office in Europe, the Guardian reported on Sunday.
Some officials in Downing Street are said to be attempting to convince UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is reportedly “keen to encourage” the plan, to not allow ByteDance to move its $100-billion business to London, accusing the video-sharing app owner of cooperating with Chinese authorities in the Xinjiang autonomous region.
The newspaper said that Truss is worried about some of the demands being made by ByteDance.
Concerned about the July change of heart by the UK regarding the participation of fellow Chinese corporation Huawei Technologies in building out Britain’s 5G networks, ByteDance did not confirm media reports about its intention to establish TikTok’s HQ in London, reportedly waiting for an official response from Downing Street.
ByteDance is currently planning to move its offices and sell its operations in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in the wake of a vow by US President Donald Trump to ban the corporation in the US in less than three months.
“ByteDance is committed to being a global company. In light of the current situation, ByteDance has been evaluating the possibility of establishing TikTok’s headquarters outside of the US, to better serve our global users,” a ByteDance spokesperson said.
Media reported that ByteDance’s next battleground would likely be London.
So-called China hawks in the UK government reportedly cited information on alleged links between TikTok’s parent company and authorities in Beijing; similar to allegations of Huawei cooperating with Chinese intelligence.
“This is different to Huawei. Huawei was banned because of worries about spying and US sanctions. This would be a decision based on Xinjiang,” a source familiar with the matter told the Guardian.
The officials referred to limited evidence provided in 2019 research conducted by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that claimed ByteDance was embroiled in allegations of Beijing’s repression of the Muslim minority in the Xinjiang province, according to the outlet.
The thinktank in its conclusion asserted that ByteDance, which owns TikTok, along with China’s leading video app Douyin, “collaborates with public security bureaus across China, including in Xinjiang, where it plays an active role in disseminating the party state’s propaganda on Xinjiang”.
The apps developer at the time refuted the Australian thinktank’s allegations, saying that its video sharing app Douyin, which is similar to TikTok, allows all users, including law enforcement groups, to set up accounts, similar to other social media platforms around the world.
“Douyin does not endorse the content generated by its users, but rather, similar to Twitter or Facebook, provides a platform to all of its users,” the company stated.
The Guardian, citing leaked documents, said that TikTok was involved in censoring content that mentioned Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence or the banned religious group Falun Gong.
TikTok said its guidelines no longer exist, as they were “retired” in May 2019, suggesting instead that videos related to the three hot-button topics are currently available.