Media outlets controlled by the Chinese government are waging a propaganda campaign in support of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew just a day after the executive was grilled by Congress about the social media company’s ties to the Communist regime.
The Global Times, a CCP propaganda outlet, described Wednesday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee as a "xenophobic witch hunt," while social media accounts linked to China mocked Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) for aggressively questioning Chew about his company’s relationship with Beijing.
The reaction by China’s allies signals a desire to shield TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, from congressional scrutiny amid a longstanding campaign by Republicans to crack down on the social media site over concerns it plays a role in the CCP’s spy apparatus. The U.S. intelligence community has long deemed TikTok a national security threat and claims the app’s users are at risk of being surveilled by the Chinese government, which owns a percentage of parent company ByteDance.
At the Global Times, the hearing was billed as an example of "the U.S. oppression of companies with a Chinese background." American lawmakers, the outlet said, asked "unprofessional questions" that were "seen as a ‘xenophobic witch hunt’" by analysts the paper spoke with.
The outlet took particular issue with Cotton and other lawmakers questioning Chew—a Singaporean national—about his ties to China and whether his company helps the CCP spy on American citizens.
CGTN, an English-language Chinese propaganda vehicle, also attempted to paint Cotton’s questions as out of line.
"TikTok's Singaporean chief Shou Zi Chew was stunned to be asked repeatedly by U.S. senator Tom Cotton about his ties with China and if he had ever belonged to [Chinese Communist Party]," the outlet wrote Thursday on X, formerly Twitter. "Cotton’s bizarre performance at a U.S. Senate hearing has been widely ridiculed."
Valiant Panda, a CCP-linked social media account, described the hearing as "McCarthyism 2.0" and posted a meme mocking Cotton for asking Chew if he ever applied for or had Chinese citizenship.
Hu Xijin, a Chinese journalist, also painted Cotton’s line of questioning as racist.
Responding to the attack campaign by China’s allies, Cotton told the Washington Free Beacon, "You don’t need to be a Chinese citizen to be beholden to the Chinese Communist Party."
"TikTok and their Chinese parent company are desperate to deflect from their ongoing targeting of American youth through their harmful malware-filled app," Cotton said. "Yesterday’s hearing showed once again that TikTok should be banned immediately."
During the hearing, Cotton pressed Chew on the Chinese government’s mass human rights crimes against the Uyghur ethnic minority, which the United States considers a genocide. Chew declined to answer the questions.
"There was indiscriminate slaughter of hundreds or thousands of Chinese citizens. Do you agree with the Trump administration and the Biden administration that the Chinese government is committing genocide against the Uyghur people?" Cotton asked.
"Senator, I've said this before, I think it is really important that anyone who cares about this topic or any topic can freely express it," Chew responded.
Pressed again for a definitive answer, Chew demurred.
The executive also dodged questions about whether Chinese leader Xi Jinping is a dictator, telling Cotton, "Senator, I'm not going to comment on any world leaders."
"Are you scared that you'll lose your job if you say anything negative about the Chinese Communist Party?" Cotton responded.
Chew was also evasive when Cotton asked him about his former work as the CFO of ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. During his time in that role, the Chinese government purchased a "1 percent golden share" in ByteDance’s main Chinese subsidiary, the ByteDance technology company.
"That deal was finalized on April 30, 2021. Isn't it true that you were appointed the CEO of TikTok the very next day on May 1, 2021?" Cotton asked.
"Well, it's a coincidence," Chew responded.
"It's a coincidence that you were the CFO, the Chinese Communist Party took its golden share and its board seat, and the very next day you were appointed the CEO of TikTok," Cotton continued. "That's a hell of a coincidence."
"It really is, Senator," Chew said.