TikTok Employees Interrogated About Connection to the Communist Party by U.S. Border Officers

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: May 11, 2024

TikTok is one of the most beloved social media platforms in the world, and 148.92 million of its 1.5 billion users from all over the planet live in the United States.

However, there have been concerns that because TikTok is based in China, its employees could be selling U.S. data to the country’s Communist Party. Now, it seems that border patrol officers around the U.S. are questioning every TikTok employee they encounter to find out if they are doing exactly that.

America’s Concerns With TikTok

TikTok is run by ByteDance, which is based in China. Therefore, many Americans worry that the Chinese government could gain access to the data the social media platform collects and use it to send subliminal political messaging to Americans.

The logo for TikTok in front of an American flag and the word “Ban”

Source: Reddit

This has become such a pressing concern that President Joe Biden signed a bill in April 2024 that requires ByteDance to either sell TikTok to a U.S. company or face being banned throughout the entire country.

Biden’s Law Forces Google and Apple to Remove TikTok from App Stores

Within his bill, Biden also specified that the two major smartphone manufacturers, Google and Apple, had to remove TikTok from their app store within 270 days if ByteDance doesn’t sell.

A smartphone open to the Google Play store showing the TikTok app

Source: Shutterstock

However, neither company has removed the social media app yet. And they may not have to, as ByteDance has promised to fight the president’s legislation in court this year.

ByteDance Claims the Bill Violated Their First Amendment Rights

The Chinese company has publicly stated that President Biden’s bill forcing ByteDance to sell TikTok to an American company or be banned throughout the country is completely unconstitutional.

Close-up photograph of a judge’s gavel atop a replica of the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment

Source: Shutterstock

The argument is that, by banning TikTok solely because it is based in China, the U.S. government would not be violating the rights of the company but the more than 148 million American users. They deserve to use the app at their discretion, as is their First Amendment right.

The U.S. Government Will Argue TikTok Is a Threat to National Security

Of course, the U.S. government is prepared to sue over the president’s bill. They will argue that while technically the ban may violate First Amendment rights, it is within their power to do so, as the social media app is a direct threat to national security.

Exterior of the US Capitol building alongside a courthouse

Source: Freepik

An annotation within the First Amendment reads, “Preservation of the security of the Nation from its enemies, foreign and domestic, is the obligation of government and one of the foremost reasons for government to exist. Pursuit of this goal may lead government officials at times to trespass in areas protected by the guarantees of speech and press and may require the balancing away of rights that might be preserved inviolate at other times.”

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s Congressional Hearing

For TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, the court case against Biden’s bill will be just another in a long line of interactions turned altercations with the U.S. government.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew speaks at a Congressional hearing

Source: @CBSNews/YouTube

Shou Chew has gone before Congress several times over the past couple of years. In January 2024, they spent hours grilling the CEO regarding his citizenship and connections to the Communist Party of China.


TikTok CEO Shou Chew Claims He Has No Affiliation With the CCP

Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the country’s government has been run exclusively by members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Hundreds of Chinese children surrounding a large red heart with the symbol of the CCP

Source: Depositphotos

However, many Chinese citizens do not support the CCP, and even millions more who do do not have a direct connection to anyone in power. TikTok CEO Shou Chew claims that not only does he not have any personal connection with the party, but he’s also not even a Chinese citizen. He is from Singapore.


Border Patrol Agents Are Now Asking TikTok Employees the Same Questions

After the transcript of the congressional hearing was made public, many people were shocked at just how relentless Congress was in questioning the CEO’s citizenship and connections to the CCP.

Two ByteDance employees inside one of the Chinese offices

Source: Reddit

But now it turns out that Shou Chew isn’t the only member of the TikTok team having to defend himself from American authorities. Border patrol agents have been asking almost identical questions to any TikTok employee entering the United States.


30 ByteDance Employees Have Been Interrogated

According to an article published by Forbes on April 30, 2024, more than 30 TikTok and ByteDance employees have been stopped at the border and questioned by Congress, just as Shou Chew was.

A United States border agent assesses a passport of a foreign traveler at the airport

Source: Homeland Security

The questions are mostly related to their citizenships and connections to the CCP, as well as their specific access to U.S. TikToker’s personal data, where the data centers are, and if they are involved in Project Texas.


ByteDance Claims No US Data Is Held in China

There have been no reports of concerning answers from the TikTok and ByteDance employees questioned at the border. In fact, each and every one of them, including Shou Chew and other executives, all corroborate that neither they nor the company are connected in any way to the CCP.

A smartphone with the TikTok logo in front of a digital screen with the ByteDance logo

Source: Shutterstock

However, Forbes did report that collected TikTok data had been found in China, even though CEO Shou Chew said during his congressional testimony in March 2023, “American data has always been stored in Virginia and Singapore.”


Will the Presidential Election Change the TikTok Ban?

With the US presidential election only a few months away, many Americans are wondering whether or not the TikTok ban will be overturned in November. Clearly, President Biden is for the ban, as he signed the bill into law. However, if former President Donald Trump takes back the Oval Office, he may choose to eliminate the legislation.

Former president and candidate for the 2024 presidential election Donald Trump at a campaign event

Source: @WashingtonPost/YouTube

Trump originally supported the banning of the Chinese-based app, but he recently reversed his position. As of March 2024, Trump says he is against Biden’s bill and for TikTok, though that opinion could change again.


Will TikTok Be Banned in the U.S.?

Whether or not TikTok will actually be banned in the United States depends on a wide variety of factors. From the decision of the courts after ByteDance fights back to who wins the presidency in November, and even if TikTok does decide to sell to a U.S. company, there are far too many “ifs” to guess the future of the popular app.

Faceless woman using the TikTok app while standing on the sidewalk

Source: Depositphotos

But one thing is for sure: all TikTok and ByteDance employees, not just the executives, should be fully prepared to answer detailed questions about their personal lives, their jobs and the CCP by U.S. authorities until this situation is resolved.