New details on TikTok ties to the Chinese Communist Party revealed amid CEO testimony

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TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on the platform’s consumer privacy and data security practices and impact on children, Thursday, March 23, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington.<br/><br/> (Graeme Jennings / Washington Examiner)

New details on TikTok ties to the Chinese Communist Party revealed amid CEO testimony

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New details on TikTok’s ties to the Chinese government have been revealed in a report submitted to Australia’s Senate ahead of the TikTok CEO’s congressional testimony.

The new report, “TikTok, ByteDance, and their ties to the Chinese Communist Party,” was submitted to the Australian Senate’s Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media last week. It came ahead of TikTok CEO’s high-profile grilling in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.

TIKTOK CEO ATTEMPTS TO DISTANCE TIKTOK FROM CHINA

“TikTok is owned by ByteDance, ByteDance is a People’s Republic of China company, and ByteDance is subject to all the influence, guidance, and de facto control to which the Chinese Communist Party now subjects all PRC technology companies,” the Australian report concluded. “We show how the CCP and PRC state agencies have extended their ties into ByteDance to the point that the company can no longer be accurately described as a private enterprise.”

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company that has links to the Chinese government. Shou Zi Chew, who simultaneously served as the CFO of ByteDance until November 2021, began serving as CEO for TikTok in April 2021, solidifying the influence of the Chinese parent company over the app.

The new report said Beijing “launched a six-year regulatory campaign to build Party control systems inside ByteDance” beginning in 2017. The CCP “commenced a program of co-option, infiltration, and legal and extra-legal coercion,” and so ByteDance “should now be viewed as a “‘hybrid’ state-private entity.”

The report runs counter to Chew insisting on Capitol Hill on Thursday that TikTok is not under any Chinese government influence on Thursday, and refused to even admit that ByteDance is a “Chinese company.” Chew also testified that he was in regular contact with ByteDance CEO Liang Rubo but refused to say how much of TikTok’s revenue is retained by ByteDance.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that ByteDance “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 assessment followed the Human Rights Watch warning in 2020 that “party committee members at ByteDance regularly gather to study President Xi Jinping’s speeches and pledge to follow the party in technological innovation.”

The report also “found that Douyin, TikTok’s analogue in China, directly aids Party propaganda and repression, and its top leaders are ‘double-hatted’ in official propaganda organizations.”

Chew said Thursday that “there are some shared services” between TikTok and Douyin.

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The new report noted that Douyin CEO Kelly Zhang “is vice president of the China Netcasting Services Association.” The leader of the association is Nie Chenxi, a member of the 19th CCP Central Committee and is the former president of state-owned CCTV.

During Chew’s tenure, ByteDance and TikTok spent lots of money on lobbying in 2021, 2022, and early this year, and the Chinese company has put together a large lobbying team made up of one-time lawmakers and former congressional staffers from both parties to try to shield the company.

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