China Says India Retaining Ban on TikTok, 57 Other Apps May Damage 'Bilateral Relationship'

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After reports said that India may retain its ban on video app TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps after reviewing responses from the companies on issues such as compliance and privacy, China said the moves carried out "under the excuse of national security" were in violation of WTO principles and fair trade.

"Since last year, the Indian side has repeatedly used national security as an excuse to prohibit some Mobile APPs with Chinese background. These moves in violation of WTO non-discriminatory principles and fair competition principles of market economy severely damage the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies. The Chinese side firmly opposes them," said Ji Rong, spokesperson of Chinese Embassy in India.

Rong said the Chinese government always asked Chinese companies to observe international rules and local laws and regulations when doing business overseas, and that the moves of the Indian government had "hindered" the improvement of the Indian business environment.

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"The Indian government has the responsibility to follow WTO rules and market principles and protect the legitimate rights and interests of international investors including Chinese companies," he said, while making a case for "mutually beneficial" China-India economic and trade cooperation.

He said the Chinese government urged India to immediately correct its "discriminatory measures and avoid causing further damage to bilateral cooperation".

The Indian government had first issued a ban on the 59 apps in June last year. The government order had stated that the apps were "prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order."

Referred to as a "digital strike", the order followed the Galwan Valley clashes between India and China at the LAC, wherein 20 Indian soldiers were killed.

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When it first imposed the ban in June, India's ministry of electronics and information technology (IT) gave the 59 apps a chance to explain their position on issues including whether they censored content, worked on behalf of foreign governments or lobbied influencers.

The companies, which include ByteDance's popular video-sharing app TikTok, Tencent Holdings' WeChat and Alibaba's UC Browser, were asked in July to respond to 77 questions.

A government panel looking into the app ban decided, after reviewing the responses, that there will be no change in the country's position for now as the ban was in the interest of India's national security and sovereignty, a source told Reuters.

TikTok said in a statement it is evaluating the notice and will respond to it. "We continually strive to comply with local laws and regulations and do our best to address any concerns the government may have. Ensuring the privacy and security of all our users remains to be our topmost priority," it said.

In September, India banned another 118 mobile apps, including Tencent's popular videogame PUBG, as it stepped up the pressure on Chinese technology companies following the standoff at the border.