China’s Foreign Ministry has said that Washington’s ban on Chinese social media applications represent ethical slippery slopes and the US will suffer consequences.

US President Donald Trump signed two executive orders on Thursday to prohibit Tencent’s messaging application WeChat and ByteDance’s video sharing platform TikTok from operating for 45 days.

Photo: Screenshot via Youtube.

The spread of Chinese mobile applications in the US threatened the country’s national security, foreign policy and economy, according to a US statement. Access to users’ personal data on the two platforms – as well as Tiktok’s censorship of content deemed sensitive to the Communist Party – were cited. It made reference to the suppression of information about the Hong Kong protests and and China’s treatment of Uighurs.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday that China strongly opposed the US move, urging them to act rationally: “The US has used national security as an excuse to frequently abuse state power and unreasonably oppress enterprises. It is blatant hegemony, which China strongly opposes.”

“The US has sacrificed the interests of many local users and their corporations. Their self-interest has overridden market principles and international norms. Their flagrant political manipulation and oppression ends up as an ethical slippery slope,” he said. “Their national image is damaged. They will face a trust deficit. They will suffer the consequences of their own actions.”

Wang urged the US to stop politicising economic issues and provide a fair and non-discriminatory trading environment to enterprises.

File photo: Solen Feyissa, via Flickr.

Netizens on Hong Kong’s Reddit-like LIHKG online forum slammed Beijing’s comments for being contradictory. China has long-practised censorship across the internet and has banned foreign social media platforms for years.

“There are only three countries in the world that ban Facebook. Which are they again? Which country prohibits the use of Google Maps again?” one commenter said. Another comment sarcastically suggested that Beijing should prohibit its people from using Microsoft, Apple and Android platforms as retaliation.

Twitter labels state-affiliated media

Meanwhile on Thursday, San Francisco-based social media firm Twitter began to label accounts belonging to government officials and state-affiliated media. An announcement stated that state-affiliated media – unlike state-financed media such as the BBC which has editorial independence – often use their news coverage to promote political agendas.

“State-affiliated media is defined as outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.”

Photo: Álvaro Ibáñez, via Flickr.

“We believe that people have the right to know when a media account is affiliated directly or indirectly with a state actor,” they said.

Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.