TikTok, the popular short video app, has announced it would exit the Hong Kong market within days, after Beijing imposed a national security law that gives the city’s police the power to force internet companies to assist with investigations.
Tech giant ByteDance, which is based in the Chinese capital and owns the app, has become the first internet company to withdraw from Hong Kong, following announcements from Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Telegram, that they would pause processing law enforcement requests for user data in the city.
“In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” a spokesman said.
TikTok could still be downloaded via the Apple and Google app stores as of Tuesday afternoon but is expected to stop being available this week.
Last August, TikTok reported that it had 150,000 users in Hong Kong. ByteDance is the world’s most valuable start-up.
Zhang Nan, the chief executive of ByteDance China, said on Tuesday that TikTok’s Chinese version, Douyin, would continue to provide services to Hong Kong users.
The company does not have plans to make Douyin available on the Hong Kong app store, but Douyin has local Hong Kong users who have downloaded it in mainland China, according to a person familiar with the matter.
On Monday, the Hong Kong government laid down new implementation rules for the sweeping national security law imposed on the city on June 30.
Under the rules, Hong Kong police can raid premises without a court warrant, order internet firms to remove content or seize their equipment, and demand information from political groups operating outside the city.
Failure to comply could result in a HK$100,000 (S$18,000) fine and up to two years in prison, according to seven new implementation regulations for enforcement agencies gazetted on Monday.
The new regulations were decided at the first meeting of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security, chaired by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, with the city’s police, security, finance, justice and immigration chiefs as members.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.