India on Monday banned ByteDance’s (字節跳動) viral short-video service TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps, citing threats to its sovereignty and security as relations between the world’s two largest populations worsened.
The unprecedented moratorium — announced after border tensions in the Himalayas on June 15 left 20 Indian soldiers dead — deals a blow to the most prominent names in Chinese technology.
The banned services included e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s (阿里巴巴) UC Web, social media leader Tencent Holdings Ltd’s (騰訊) WeChat and Baidu Inc’s (百度) map and translation platforms.
The move marks another attempt by India to reduce dependence on its neighbor’s products and hampers efforts by China’s largest corporations to expand beyond their own borders — a collective endeavor encapsulated by TikTok’s phenomenal success abroad and particularly in India, ByteDance’s largest international market.
The world’s most valuable startup responded by saying it would meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to discuss the matter.
“TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and has not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese government,” Nikhil Gandhi, the company’s local boss, wrote on its Twitter account. “Further if we are requested to in the future we would not do so.”
In an e-mailed statement, TikTok also said that its “team of around 2,000 employees in India is committed to working with the government to demonstrate our dedication to user security and our commitment to the country overall.”
The ban also includes smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp’s (小米) Mi Video Call and Sina Weibo (微博).
The unauthorized transmission and storage of Indian users’ data in overseas servers and “its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defense of India” is a matter of deep and immediate concern requiring the emergency measures, the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in a statement on Monday.
Representatives for Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu did not have immediate comment when contacted.
“China is strongly concerned about the relevant notice issued by the Indian side. We are checking on and verifying the situation,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) told reporters yesterday at a briefing in Beijing. “The Chinese government always asks Chinese businesses to abide by international rules and local laws and regulations in their business cooperation with foreign countries.”
It is not clear how the ban would be implemented, as most of these apps are already installed on users’ cellphones. The government might block the apps’ servers and prevent new users from downloading them.
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