President Donald Trump on Thursday ordered an unspecified ban on “transactions” with the Chinese owners of the consumer apps TikTok and WeChat.
Trump had threatened a deadline of September 15 to “close down” TikTok unless Microsoft or “somebody else” bought it. TikTok, Microsoft and WeChat owner Tencent had no immediate replies to queries.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that he was expanding the US crackdown on Chinese technology to personal apps, calling out TikTok and WeChat by name. WeChat and its sister app Weixin in China are hugely popular messaging apps.
“The United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security,” the order said.
“The following actions shall be prohibited beginning 45 days after the date of this order… any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd.”
The orders come as the Trump administration said this week it was stepping up efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from US digital networks and called the Chinese-owned short-video app TikTok and messenger app WeChat “significant threats.”
The TikTok app may be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party, and the United States “must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security,” Mr Trump said in one order.
In the other order, Mr Trump said WeChat “automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users. This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.”
The order would effectively ban WeChat in the United States in 45 days by barring “to the extent permitted under applicable law, any transaction that is related to WeChat by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with Tencent Holdings Ltd.”
Mr Trump said this week he would support the sale of TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft Corp if the US government got a “substantial portion” of the sales price but warned he will ban the service in the United States on September 15.
In morning trading in Asia, Tencent’s shares tanked, plunging 10 per cent before ending the session down 6.75 per cent.
Tencent and ByteDance declined to comment.