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TikTok: Chinese app to quit Hong Kong amid new security law controversy

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By Euronews  with AP
This February 25, 2020, photo taken in New York shows TikTok's icon.
This February 25, 2020, photo taken in New York shows TikTok's icon.   -   Copyright  AP Photo, File

Chinese app TikTok says it is stopping operations in Hong Kong.

It comes after Beijing imposed a new security law that increased its influence on the semi-autonomous territory.

"In light of recent events, we've decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong," a TikTok spokesman said in a statement to Euronews. 

The short-form video app's departure comes after various social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, Google and Twitter said they had frozen requests from Hong Kong authorities to provide user data.

Telegram, another social media platform, said it "has never shared any data with the Hong Kong authorities in the past and does not intend to process any data requests [...] until an international consensus is reached in relation to the ongoing political changes".

The above social media platforms are all blocked in mainland China. In Hong Kong, where they're still legal, users have begun deleting their accounts for fear of retribution.

The new security law gives China sweeping powers the former British colony which, unlike China, still has public dissent and enjoys unrestricted internet access.

Under the implementation rules of the Article 43 of the new security law, platforms, publishers and internet service providers may be ordered to take down any message that is “likely to constitute an offence endangering national security or is likely to cause the occurrence of an offence endangering national security.”

Service providers who do not comply with such requests could face fines of up to €11,400 and receive jail terms of up to six months.

Individuals who share these messages may face similar fines and a jail term of one year.

Hong Kong authorities quickly implemented the law, which took effect on June 30, arresting about 370 people.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's pro-Beijing leader, has defended the law saying it was necessary to protect national security and punish "violent political elements", while China's senior official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, Zhang Xiaoming, said the legislation was necessary to correct the "deviation" in the understanding of the "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong.

Victor Gao, a former translator for ex-Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's told Euronews that "what China is doing today is exactly what any other country in the world would ask as a minimum".

"This law is only targeting four categories of crimes, including terrorism, secession, sedition and collusion with foreign countries in the sabotage of China's sovereignty right over Hong Kong," he said.