US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a joint press conference as part of a meeting with the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Andrej Babis in Prague, Republic of Czecheke, on August 12, 2020.
Petr David Josek | AFP | Getty Images
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President Donald Trump̵7;s executive orders against TikTok and WeChat could be “broader” than just those two applications.
Pompeo has not clarified, but his comments could imply action against other Chinese applications or even parent company TikTok ByteDance, or owner of WeChat Tencent.
“So when President Trump made his announcement not only about TikTok, but also about WeChat – and if you read it, it is even broader than that – it is that we will make sure that American data does not end up in the hands of an opponent like the Chinese Communist Party, for whom we have seen data uses in Western China rivaling the greatest human rights violations in human history, “Pompeo said in a speech in Prague, Czecheke Republic.
Orders name as Tencent and ByteDance. One of the executive orders prohibits “any transaction by any person, or in connection with any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd … Beijing, China, or its subsidiaries, in which any such company has any interest ”as determined by the Secretary of Commerce.
Another executive order prohibits “any transaction relating to WeChat by any person, or in connection with any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with Tencent Holdings Ltd.”
Executive orders are vague and do not specify what a “transaction” means. But Pompeo’s comments, in which he cited these two specific messages, may be a suggestion that the action could extend beyond the two named applications.
Both ByteDance and Tencent were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.
Pompeo’s remarks come as Tencent executives have downplayed the impact of Washington moves.
“WeChat and Weixin are two separate products, with WeChat serving our international users,” John Lo, Tencent ‘s chief financial officer, said in a statement on Wednesday. Weixin is the version of WeChat for mainland China users.
“Based on the initial reading and subsequent press reports, the executive order is focused on WeChat in the United States and not our other businesses in the US,” he said. “We are in the process of seeking further clarification from relevant parties in the US.”
The US represents less than 2% of Tencent’s global revenue and less than 1% of total advertising revenue, according to the company.
James Mitchell, chief strategy officer at Tencent, said he did not believe US companies advertising on Tencent platforms in China would be affected as the executive order covers only U.S. jurisdiction.