Trump backs proposed deal to keep TikTok operating in US

Trump backs proposed deal to keep TikTok operating in US
The TikTok logo is displayed in front of a TikTok office in Culver City, California. (AFP / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / MARIO TAMA)
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Updated 20 September 2020

Trump backs proposed deal to keep TikTok operating in US

Trump backs proposed deal to keep TikTok operating in US
  • TikTok said Oracle and Walmart could acquire up to a cumulative 20% stake in the new company in a financing round to be held before an initial public offering of stock
  • Trump said if completed the deal would create a new company likely to be based in Texas, which will be hiring at least 25,000 workers

NEW YORK: President Donald Trump said Saturday he’s given his “blessing” to a proposed deal that would see the popular video-sharing app TikTok partner with Oracle and Walmart and form a US company.
Trump has targeted Chinese-owned TikTok for national security and data privacy concerns in the latest flashpoint in the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. The president’s support for a deal comes just a day after the Commerce Department announced restrictions that if put in place could eventually make it nearly impossible for TikTok’s legions of younger fans to use the app.
Trump said if completed the deal would create a new company likely to be based in Texas.
“I have given the deal my blessing,” he said. “If they get it done, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s OK too.”
Trump said the new company will be hiring at least 25,000 people and making a $5 billion contribution to a fund dedicated to education for Americans. “That’s their contribution that I’ve been asking for,” he said.
TikTok said Oracle and Walmart could acquire up to a cumulative 20% stake in the new company in a financing round to be held before an initial public offering of stock, which Walmart said could happen within the next year. Oracle’s stake would be 12.5%, and Walmart’s would be 7.5%, the companies said in separate statements.
The deal will make Oracle responsible for hosting all TikTok’s US user data and securing computer systems to ensure US national security requirements are satisfied. Walmart said it will provide its ecommerce, fulfillment, payments and other services to the new company.
“We are pleased that the proposal by TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart will resolve the security concerns of the US administration and settle questions around TikTok’s future in the US,” TikTok said in a statement.
Trump has been demanding that the US operations of TikTok be sold to a US company or else be shut down. He’s also been targeting WeChat, another Chinese-owned app.
The administration contends that the user data collected by the two apps could be shared with the Chinese government. On Saturday, Trump said the US-based TikTok “will have nothing to do with China.” TikTok says it has 100 million US users.
On Friday, the US Commerce Department said it would bar TikTok from US app stores as of late Sunday. Further restrictions that would prevent TikTok from accessing essential Internet services in the country would go into effect on Nov. 12. Commerce said Saturday that it will delay the barring of TikTok from US app stores until Sept. 27 at 11:59 p.m.
Commerce is imposing similar restrictions on WeChat, although all of the restrictions on that app are set to go into effect Sunday night at 11:59 p.m.
Earlier Saturday, WeChat users asked a US judge to block the government’s actions, saying they would restrict free speech. WeChat is an all-in-one app with instant-messaging, social media and other communication tools. The US government argued that it is not restricting free speech because WeChat users still “are free to speak on alternative platforms that do not pose a national security threat.”
US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler asked lawyers for the government and WeChat users whether the prohibitions would cripple WeChat as soon as the clock ticked from Sunday night into Monday morning without a resolution. An attorney for the government said they would likely lead to a “degradation” of WeChat over time.
Judge Beeler did not rule immediately on the motion.
WeChat has millions of US users who rely on the app to stay in touch and conduct business with people and companies in China and around the world. In court filings, the founder of the Mental Health Association for Chinese Communities, who is a US citizen in California, said that the group’s primary tool to reach out and provide services to Chinese Americans is WeChat.
“Since many of the Chinese community members we serve are not fluent in English, WeChat is the only online tool that they rely on,” Elaine Peng said.
The Trump administration’s aggressive tactics are part of its latest attempt to counter the influence of China, a rising economic superpower. Since taking office in 2017, Trump has waged a trade war with China, blocked mergers involving Chinese companies and stifled the business of Chinese firms like Huawei, a maker of phones and telecom equipment.
China-backed hackers, meanwhile, have been blamed for data breaches of US federal databases and the credit agency Equifax, and the Chinese government strictly limits what US tech companies can do in China.
China’s ministry of commerce condemned the US moves and urged it to stop what it called bullying behavior. It also said China may take “necessary measures” to protect Chinese companies.
The US Treasury Department said Saturday that TikTok’s deal still needs to close with Oracle and Walmart, and it also needs documentation and conditions to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
That, of course, also leaves the potential for more roller coasters of emotion for TikTok users, such as Haley Hoffman Smith, a 24-year-old who moved to Manhattan this year to pursue her dream of becoming a talk-show host. She said she had just hit 100,000 followers on TikTok and was crushed on Friday to hear it may be headed for a shutdown.
“TikTok is an inextricable part of my dream chasing story,” she said, “and to lose it forever would not only be an inconvenient setback, but an absolute heartbreak.”
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AP Business Writers Tali Arbel, Matt O’Brien and Barbara Ortutay contributed.


Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai in custody after fraud charge

Updated 03 December 2020

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai in custody after fraud charge

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai in custody after fraud charge
  • Authorities have intensified a crackdown on key opposition figures in the Chinese-ruled city
  • ‘This is about dirtying Jimmy up. It’s Beijing’s policing brought to Hong Kong’

HONG KONG: Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai was denied bail on Thursday on a charge of fraud related to the lease of a building that houses his Apple Daily, an anti-government tabloid.
Authorities have intensified a crackdown on key opposition figures in the Chinese-ruled city since Beijing circumvented the local legislature and imposed sweeping national security legislation on the global financial center on June 30.
While Lai’s fraud charge did not fall under the national security law, it marks the latest crackdown on pro-democracy figures in the former British colony, which was handed back to Beijing in 1997 with a promise to maintain the free-wheeling city’s way of life for 50 years.
Critics say the law crushes freedoms in the global financial center, while supporters say it will bring stability after prolonged anti-China, pro-democracy protests last year.
On Wednesday, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent democracy activists Joshua Wong was jailed for more than 13 months for his role in an unlawful anti-government rally in 2019, the toughest and most high-profile sentencing of an opposition figure this year.
Lai, 73, and two senior executives of his company Next Digital, were charged on Wednesday on suspicion of concealing from and falsely representing the use of their office to their landlord, a public corporation set up by the Hong Kong government.
The charge stated they were not using the office space as permitted under the lease between 2016 to 2020, and had sub-let a part of the premises, resulting in benefits to Apple Daily.
Reuters was not immediately able to reach Lai or his lawyers for comment. Next Digital suspended trading on Thursday morning, pending an announcement containing “inside information.”
“This is about dirtying Jimmy up. It’s Beijing’s policing brought to Hong Kong,” Mark Simon, an associate of Lai, told Reuters.
An ardent critic of Beijing, Lai has been detained since Wednesday after reporting to the police for his arrest in August. Prosecutors applied to adjourn the case until April next year, according to local media.
In August, Lai was arrested after about 200 police officers swooped on his offices. Hong Kong police later said they had arrested nine men and one woman for suspected offenses including “collusion with a foreign country/external elements to endanger national security, conspiracy to defraud” and others.
Suspicion of colluding with foreign forces carries a maximum sentence of life in jail under the new security law.
Lai has been a frequent visitor to Washington, where he has met officials, including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a “traitor.”
The security law was introduced on June 30 and punishes anything China considers subversion, secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.