Watch: TikTok CEO Refuses to Answer Questions About China's Uyghur Genocide

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

TikTok CEO Shou Chew appeared on Capitol Hill on Thursday as he fights for his company’s future in the American market. However, his loyalties to Beijing made for some awkward viewing, as he was pressed about China’s egregious human rights abuses.

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Chew declined three consecutive opportunities to acknowledge the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) persecution of its Uyghur population during his House Commerce Committee hearing, insisting he would only speak about his own company’s activities.

“Do you agree that the Chinese government has persecuted the Uyghur population?” asked Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R-AZ).

“Congresswoman, if you use our app and you open it, you will find our users, who give all sorts of content on–,” he responded, before Lesko cut him off and reminded him that that was not her original question.

“Well, it’s deeply concerning to hear about all accounts of human rights abuse, my role here is to explain what our platform does-”, Chew replied, before being cut off by Lesko once again.

“I think you’re being pretty evasive. It’s a pretty easy question,” she interjected. “Do you agree that the Chinese government has persecuted the Uyghur population?”

“Congresswoman, I’m here to describe TikTok and what we do as a platform,” Shou continued. “And as a platform, we allow our users to freely express themselves on this issue and any other issue that matters to them.”

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“Well, you didn’t answer the question,” noted Lesko.

Since 2017, Chinese authorities have imprisoned around one million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities across the state of Xinjiang, in what some experts have claimed amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity.

The majority have been placed in concentration camps designed to indoctrinate them into the ideals of Chinese nationalism and communist ideology, forcing them to disavow their allegiance to Islam, engaging in slave labor, receiving forced sterilization or birth control, and, in some extreme cases, are even being used as live organ donors.

Beijing continues to deny allegations that the camps are intended as a repressive apparatus, instead claiming they are “voluntary de-radicalization camps” and “vocational training centers” aimed at improving integration between ethnic minorities and wider Chinese society. They also claim the camps are necessary to prevent future terrorism, following various Islamist-inspired attacks over the past decades.

TikTok, meanwhile, remains under intense scrutiny for its links to the Chinese Communist Party as its parent company ByteDance is based in Beijing. Intelligence officials say the app represents a threat to U.S. national security because it would be legally required to hand over sensitive data to Chinese officials on request, including that of American citizens.

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The House of Representatives recently gave authorization to the Biden administration to ban the app over national security concerns, while a growing number of Senators are also backing the move. The app is currently banned on all official U.S. government devices and in many Republican-controlled states.

Biden is understood to be considering the move unless China agrees to divest its stake in the company, but is currently waiting for the outcome of negotiations with the company and has yet to make a firm decision on the matter. Other countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada, are also ramping up scrutiny over the app and have taken similar decisions to ban it from all government devices.

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