HONG KONG • Viral video platform TikTok’s withdrawal from Hong Kong is a savvy commercial move that sidesteps thorny privacy issues but it will not shield the app completely from accusations of collusion with China, experts said.
As Facebook, Twitter and other US tech giants risk angering China by refusing to share Hong Kong user data, Chinese-owned TikTok has also portrayed an image of principle by pulling out of the territory.
The moves were triggered by China’s imposition of a security law on Hong Kong last week aimed at quashing a democracy movement and give police new powers to censor the Internet.
TikTok’s exit from Hong Kong was partly an effort to shake off the “label of it being a company that is controlled by China and shares data with the Chinese government”, Zhu Zhiqun, a political science professor at Bucknell University in the US, told AFP.
However, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance Ltd, has a similar app for mainland China called Douyin that does share users’ data with the Chinese government.
While Douyin is not officially available for download in Hong Kong, ByteDance is happy for it to be used in the city of seven million people.
“The company does not have plans to make Douyin available on the Hong Kong app store, but Douyin has local Hong Kong users who have downloaded it in mainland China,” a ByteDance spokesperson told AFP.
Leaving Hong Kong allows Tik- Tok to focus on building its increasingly lucrative American market, while ceding only a little bit of ground to its sister app, according to tech expert Elliott Zaagman.
“(TikTok is) primarily concerned now with staying alive in the US,” said Zaagman, who writes for the Lowy Institute think tank in Australia and presents the China Tech Investor podcast.
“TikTok will lose their Hong Kong users, but Douyin will gain their Hong Kong users…it’s kind of a win-win.”
TikTok and Douyin are among the worlds’ most popular apps, with more than 2.2 billion downloads, according to US-based research agency SensorTower Inc. — AFP