Last week the Government announced all technology from Chinese firm Huawei must be removed from Britain’s 5G network by 2027. China is also angry Britain is offering sanctuary to potentially millions of Hong Kong citizens who will be affected by the country’s new security laws.
Speaking to the Sunday Times a source said ByteDance, which owns TikTok, had suspended its UK headquarters plans because of the “wider geopolitical context”.
British firms operating in China has also been warned they could face retaliation as Beijing’s anger with the UK intensifies.
On Friday the Sunday Times reports Beijing based UK business leaders were called to a meeting by Chinese government officials where they were warned they could be at risk.
A source speaking to the paper said: “The message was that retaliation is coming and that British firms in China are in the firing line.”
TikTok has suspended plans for a London HQ
TikTok has surged in popularity since the beginning of the year
The popularity of TikTok exploded across the world in early 2020 but an increasing number of security concerns are being raised.
Chinese companies are required by law to provide sensitive data if it is requested by the central government.
India has already blocked TikTok on national security grounds and the United States has suggested it could follow suit.
The Government’s move against Huawei reversed an earlier decision announced in January which said equipment from the Chinese company could be used in Britain’s 5G network on a limited basis.
Huawei technology will be banned from the UK 5G network by 2027
According to The Observer Government officials privately told Huawei executives this was linked to political pressure from the Trump administration.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a fierce China critic, will visit Britain later this week.
Along with the Prime Minister he will meet former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith who has suggested TikTok should be banned in the UK.
Sir Iain argued: “No British government should tolerate companies that prop up government-run concentration camps and banning such companies is the best resistance.”
China has imposed new security laws on Hong Kong to suppress dissent
The UK is offering sanctuary to potentially millions of Hong Kong residents
TikTok has been accused of deleting videos critical of the Chinese government over Hong Kong, Tibet, Taiwan and the Uyghur ethnic minority.
It’s been reported that up to one million Uyghur’s and other Chinese Muslims are being held in ‘re-education camps’ in the east of the country.
Earlier this week US Customs seized 13 tonnes of human hair it claimed had been taken from Uyghurs in captivity.
A number of international tech companies already have a major presence in London including Google, which recently opened a £1bn site in the capital, and Amazon.
Relations between Britain and China also dramatically worsened after the Chinese government imposed new security laws on Hong Kong that greatly reduce its autonomy and mean protestors in the city risk being arrested for “sedition”.
The UK argues this is a clear violation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration which was agreed before the return of Hong Kong to Chinese control in 1997.
In response Britain has said Hong Kong residents entitles to British national overseas status, which applies to all those born prior to 1997, will be allowed to live and work in the UK with an eventual route to citizenship.
China has decried this as an unacceptable interference in its internal affairs and threatened unspecified “retaliation”.
Protesters in London demonstrate against China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority
Several prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy dissidents, such as Nathan Law and Simon Cheng, have already arrived in the UK to dodge the threat of arrest.
On Monday foreign secretary Dominic Raab will give a statement on the UK’s extradition treaty to Hong Kong which could now be suspended.
Speaking to the Sunday Times a TikTok spokesman commented: “We remain fully committed to investing in London and inspiring creativity and bringing joy to our users around the world through our products and platforms.”