UK TikTok ban prevents understanding next generation, says China

China's ambassador to the UK told reporters on Wednesday that banning TikTok was preventing governments from understanding their younger generation.

On the third day of his inaugural visit to Northern Ireland, Zheng Zeguang said apps like TikTok helped policymakers "stay in touch with people, with their reality" and that to "confine yourself to your own version and not allow people to use Tiktok is wrong."

He added: "You just prevent yourself from understanding the younger generation."

Ambassador Zheng Zeguang is greeted by Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Sandra Duffy. /CGTN
Ambassador Zheng Zeguang is greeted by Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Sandra Duffy. /CGTN

Ambassador Zheng Zeguang is greeted by Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Sandra Duffy. /CGTN


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Zheng gave his remarks at a news conference at the Consulate General of China In Belfast. This followed various meetings with local politicians and dignitaries as part of his visit to promote cultural exchanges and economic cooperation between Northern Ireland and China.

In recent months, governments in the U.S., Europe and Canada have stepped up efforts to restrict access to TikTok, a hugely popular short-form video app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance.

During a five-hour questioning of TikTok CEO last week, U.S. lawmakers raised concerns that the app is used by the government in Beijing to spy on Americans, something China and TikTok have consistently denied.

China has a consistent policy on banning social media apps it can't regulate such as facebook and twitter but it does allow TikTok's predecessor Douyin, that has over 600 million users and follows China's rules on age-sensitive material and limits on screen time. Zheng says Douyin allows government officials to "stay in touch" with younger generations.

I think many young people love TikTok. And they will continue to use TikTok
 -  Zheng Zeguang, China's Ambassador to the UK

Last month the White House gave federal workers 30 days to delete TikTok from government devices. A number of other countries and government bodies - including the UK and its Parliament, plus the executive arm of the European Union - have also banned the app from official devices.

The policy hasn't been universally welcomed by politicians. UK energy security secretary Grant Shapps recently declared on TikTok that he would "NOT be leaving anytime soon" by continuing to use the site on his personal phones.

In the U.S. Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has spoken out against the ban.

"To ban TikTok, to ban UK government officials using TikTok, or to describe Tiktok as something that is controlled by the Chinese government is obviously overstretching the idea of national security, and (is) politicizing a technical company," Zheng added.

Zheng advised other countries not to simply follow the lead of those countries who had issued bans. He said they should "not be led astray by any third country" but "focus on the fundamentals and base their policy, their thinking, on the merit of the facts themselves."


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