The US Commerce Department defended President Trump’s executive order banning TikTok from the United States on Monday, saying that while it would comply with a court order issued Sunday that delayed the ban, it intends to “vigorously defend” the executive order and its “implementation efforts” from legal challenges.
“The [executive order] is fully consistent with the law and promotes legitimate national security interests,” the US Commerce Department said in a statement issued Monday Hong Kong time.
On Sunday, Federal District Judge Carl Nichols said that his opinion on the matter, which is still sealed, would need to be reviewed by the plaintiffs and defendants on Monday to decide whether the full decision can be made public, and that the parties would need to confer by Wednesday on next steps in the dispute.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
“We’re pleased that the court agreed with our legal arguments and issued an injunction preventing the implementation of the TikTok app ban,” a TikTok spokeswoman said in a statement issued Monday morning Beijing time.
“We will continue defending our rights for the benefit of our community and employees. At the same time, we will also maintain our ongoing dialogue with the government to turn our proposal, which the President gave his preliminary approval to last weekend, into an agreement.”
On August 6, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order threatening to ban TikTok and WeChat, a Chinese-owned messaging app, saying the companies could be required to turn over users’ personal data to Beijing and pose a national security risk.
Sunday’s court ruling dealt a second blow to Trump within a week in his efforts to curb the Chinese owned popular apps. A federal judge in California on September 19 ruled in favour of a group WeChat users in the US, saying US government failed to provide enough evidence of a security threat.
TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, sued Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the Commerce Department on September 18, saying the administration had acted without due process and in violation of the First Amendment. The app owners are asking Federal District Judge Carl Nichols to issue a preliminary injunction to halt the ban.
The Trump administration on Friday filed an objection to TikTok’s request to stop the ban.
Government lawyers filed their response under seal on Friday afternoon, saying it included “confidential business information”.
The legal back and forth took place as ByteDance seeks government approval for its proposed deal with Oracle Corp and Walmart for its US operations.
Alex Capri, a visiting senior fellow at the National University of Singapore, said that while it was a short-term victory for TikTok, ongoing litigation could see the US government reveal more “facts” and “evidence” of national security risks which could kill the proposed deal between Oracle, Walmart and ByteDance.
“Frankly, everyone seems to have different explanations about the deal,” he said. “Under a scenario where ByteDance retains 80 per cent ownership, all bets are off, as CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the US) could still block this deal, further down the road, on grounds of national security.”
Professor David Law from the department of law at the University of Hong Kong said that the preliminary injunction means the District Court thinks that TikTok has a strong legal argument.
“There is no guarantee TikTok will win if the case goes to trial, but it tells you that TikTok must have at least one good legal argument,” he said. “It’s possible to get the injunction lifted ... but it is difficult. The appeals court will not lift the injunction unless it thinks the district court abused its discretion, which is a difficult standard to meet.”
On Monday, Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China was opposed to “the US generalising the concept of national security, abusing its state power and unreasonably suppressing and bullying enterprises of other countries.”
Last week, the Commerce Department delayed the TikTok ban by a week until Sunday after Trump reacted positively toward the deal with Oracle.
Late on Thursday, Trump also asked the judge to stay the injunction for WeChat.
Government lawyers said: “The court’s preliminary injunction permits the continued, unfettered use of WeChat, a mobile application that the Executive Branch has determined constitutes a threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
They added that it would allow Beijing to “surveil the American people and collect and use vast swathes of personal and proprietary information from American users to advance its own interests”.
In a separate filing on Friday, US lawyers said they would submit classified information supporting their request, including an assessment by the director of national intelligence.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Inside China Tech: Is that TikTok deal happening or not?
- Trump administration files legal objection to TikTok’s efforts to halt US ban
This article US Commerce Department defends Trump administration’s TikTok ban after new court ruling first appeared on South China Morning Post