TikTok CEO hailed as hero in China after grilling by US Congress 'bullies'
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew has been elevated to “hero” status on Chinese social media after his five-hour grilling before the United States Congress.
The Singaporean entrepreneur testified at the House Committee for Energy and Commerce on Thursday, where he was questioned about concerns over the app’s potential national security threats and perceived ties with China.
The short video-sharing app, which currently has over 150 million users in the U.S., is facing calls for a countrywide ban over its sensitive content and alleged security risks. During the four-and-a-half-hour hearing, Chew emphasized that ByteDance is a private business and “not an agent of China or any other country.”
Some questions by the lawmakers earned ridicule on social media for apparently highlighting the politicians' limited understanding of how the internet works.
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At one point, Representative Richard Hudson (R, NC-9) asked Chew, “So if I have a TikTok app on my phone and my phone is on my home Wi-Fi network, does TikTok access that network?”
“Congressman, we do not do anything that is beyond any industry norms,” Chew said. “I believe the answer to your question is no.”
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Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R, GA-1) asked Chew if the app tracks pupil dilation as a form of facial recognition to drive algorithms. In response, Chew said the app does not use body, face or voice data to identify users, noting that it only collects data for “filters to have sunglasses on your face.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Debbie Lesko (R, AZ-8) asked Chew whether he agrees that “the Chinese government has persecuted the Uyghur population.” When Chew attempted to divert the topic back to “describe TikTok, and what we do as a platform,” Lesco accused him of being evasive.
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On Chinese social media, the hearing was called a "kindergarten fight" in comparison to how Chinese tech giant CEOs are treated in China.
Chinese conservative political commentator Chairman Rabbit dubbed the hearing a “one-way conversation” with the lawmakers not allowing Chew to respond accordingly. He observed that the officials grilled Chew as if he represented the Chinese government and not a private company. Chairman Rabbit’s views became a trending topic on Weibo.
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Memes have also started circulating about how he stood up after being “bullied” by American officials, with some calling him a “solitary hero” for defending China’s interests despite being Singaporean.