Bipartisan Outrage After Chinese Embassy Lobbies Congressmembers

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Chinese diplomats reportedly held meetings with congressional staff to lobby against legislation that would effectively ban TikTok in the United States.

TikTok, the video-sharing social media app owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has repeatedly denied that it has any relationship with the Chinese government.

However, with Congress fast-tracking legislation to ban or force a sale of the app, the Chinese Embassy is making moves to protect the company’s future.

According to congressional staffers whose offices were contacted, the embassy reached out to arrange meetings without specifically mentioning TikTok.

But during the meetings, diplomats downplayed the security concerns associated with Chinese control of the app and claimed the ban would hurt American investors.

Politico also reported that a Democrat Senator’s aide was approached specifically in reference to the TikTok ban, again specifying that not all of ByteDance’s board members are Chinese nationals.

TikTok claimed it was unaware of the Chinese Embassy’s actions on its behalf, saying the meetings were “news to us, and it’s absurd to ask us to comment on anonymous sources we know nothing about.”

“Since the bill’s introduction, we’ve been publicly vocal about why we oppose the ban bill,” said a TikTok spokesperson. “This so-called reporting doesn’t pass the smell test and it’s irresponsible for Politico to print it.”

However, the Chinese Embassy did not deny its part.

Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said the “Chinese Embassy in the US tries to tell the truth about the TikTok issue to people from all walks of life in the US.”

“This is not about lobbying for a single company,” he added, “but about whether all Chinese companies can be treated fairly.”

TikTok has taken its own actions against the legislation, including live mass-pinging users to contact Congress in protest as a committee voted to advance the bill.

Its critics say that was just one example of the easy access and influence the Chinese company has over American youths.

“By lobbying congressional staff to protect TikTok’s relationship with ByteDance, officials are revealing how valuable TikTok is to the Chinese Communist Party. Losing control of the app would neuter Beijing’s most potent weapon against Americans,” said Michael Sobolik, senior fellow in Indo-Pacific Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council.

He is not alone in that thought.

“TikTok has no connection with China, I thought, so why would they do that?” quipped Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA).

“It’s so patently obvious that TikTok is owned and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party,” he added, “that if it takes the fact that the Chinese Embassy is taking meetings on Hill to convince you of that — you may have been too far gone.”

Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI) concurred, saying Politico’s report “definitely shows that the CCP is very influential on this issue and very active and illustrates the importance of why we need to separate TikTok’s operations here in the United States.”


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