It is unclear when TikTok — which is owned by Beijing-based startup ByteDance — will exit Hong Kong, and what that will mean for the app’s users in the city. The spokesperson did not respond to a request for further details.
The vaguely defined rules broaden the power of officials to investigate, prosecute and punish both foreign nationals and citizens for a range of offenses, such as “inciting hatred” among Hong Kong residents towards mainland China.
TikTok is also not available on the mainland, where ByteDance instead markets a Chinese version of the app called Douyin. ByteDance did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether Douyin would be made available to Hong Kong users.
TikTok’s Hong Kong exit comes as the app tries to distance itself from China and ByteDance.
People should only download TikTok “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said in an interview on Fox News.
TikTok did not respond to a request for comment regarding the top US diplomat’s remarks, but it has previously denied that the app poses a national security risk and said that it operates separately from ByteDance. TikTok has said, for example, that its data centers are located entirely outside of China, and that none of that data is subject to Chinese law.
The app has exploded in popularity in the United States and other western countries since it launched in 2016, becoming the first Chinese social media platform to gain traction with users outside of its home country. It was downloaded 315 million times in the first three months of this year, more quarterly downloads than any other app in history, according to analytics company Sensor Tower.
But the app has recently hit a roadblock in one of its most important markets.
India last week banned TikTok and other Chinese apps, saying they pose a “threat to sovereignty and integrity.” The ban follows broader, escalating tensions between the two countries following a border clash between the two countries last month that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.
India has been the biggest driver of new TikTok downloads, generating close to 660 million installs since its launch in 2017, according Sensor Tower.
— Brian Rokus and Hadas Gold contributed to this report.