App disappears from app stores after announcing departure


The logo of the social media application TikTok (also known as Douyin) is displayed on a smartphone on December 14, 2018 in Berlin, Germany.

Thomas Trutschel | Photothek | fake pictures

TikTok was withdrawn from Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store in Hong Kong, days after a new national security law was introduced in the city.

Users who have already downloaded the popular short video app can no longer use it.

TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, said earlier this week that it would leave Hong Kong “in light of recent events,” referring to the national security law passed in late June.

Under the new law, people found guilty of secession or subversion can be punished with life in prison. But the law also empowers authorities to monitor online content, including the requirement that technology platforms and Internet service providers remove content that doesn’t comply with the law or face fines.

Major US organizations, including Twitter and Facebook, said they were pausing requests for data from users of the Hong Kong security forces while evaluating what this law means.

Hong Kong TikTok users were greeted with the following message when they opened the app: “Thank you for your time at TikTok and giving us the opportunity to bring a little joy into your life!”

“We regret to inform you that we have stopped operating TikTok in Hong Kong,” he continued.

TikTok has come under fire from Washington, which accused it of censoring content on its platform that may be sensitive to Beijing. The application has denied that it does this.

The United States is also concerned that China may access TikTok data. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this week that the Trump administration is “analyzing” the ban on TikTok and other Chinese social media applications.

TikTok said, “It has never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do if asked.”

The social media app was also criticized in India, where it was recently blocked along with 58 other Chinese apps. The Indian government said it took steps to ban the apps, claiming that “they are engaged in activities that are detrimental to India’s sovereignty and integrity, India’s defense, state security and public order.” Meanwhile, tensions between India and China have escalated on their disputed border in the western Himalayas, and a clash earlier this month left 20 Indian soldiers dead.

TikTok has been trying to distance itself from its Chinese parent. He hired an American CEO in the form of Kevin Mayer, a former Disney executive. Its priority was seen as rebuilding trust with regulators.

And on Friday, ByteDance told CNBC that it “is evaluating changes to the corporate structure of its TikTok business,” but did not add further details on what exactly that would entail.

ByteDance operates a version of TikTok in China called Douyin, but a spokesperson said the company “has no plans” to make the app available in Hong Kong’s app stores. Douyin has local Hong Kong users who downloaded the app in mainland China, the spokesperson added.

– CNBC’s Uptin Saiidi contributed to this report.

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