Sen. Tom Cotton Faces Backlash for Grilling TikTok CEO on Citizenship

( – The CEO of controversial Chinese social media app TikTok has faced a grilling from senators –- but now there’s a backlash against one of the lawmakers. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) pressed Shou Zi Chew hard on his relationship with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Some people think he pressed too hard.

Senators Question Tech Leaders

On January 31, the CEOs of five tech companies –- TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), Meta (which owns Facebook and Instagram), DIscord, and Snap –- appeared in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee to be quizzed on what their platforms are doing to protect children online. Meta owner Mark Zuckerberg probably had the hardest time overall, but Senator Cotton focused on Chew.

Although TikTok is a Chinese company, Chew himself is from Singapore and still lives there. He’s married to a US citizen of Taiwanese descent, and his children also hold American citizenship. Nevertheless, Cotton pushed hard for evidence of links to the Chinese regime. He asked twice if Chew had ever been a member of the CCP; both times, Chew replied that he was Singaporean. Ethnic Chinese make up around 75% of Singapore’s population, and Mandarin is the official language there, but it’s an independent democracy.

After Chew denied any CCP links, Cotton went on to ask him his views on the 1989 Tiananmen Square mass killing by China’s security services. Chew had earlier referred to the “massive protest” against the communist regime; Cotton asked if anything else had happened there, and Chew replied, “Yes, I think it’s well documented. There was a massacre.”

Questions Provoke Backlash

Cotton’s hard-line questioning of Chew quickly sparked protests on social media. Journalist Heidi Moore complained on X that his questions were “Sinophobic” and evidence of government racism. The AAPI Victory Fund, a PAC that funds Asian-American political candidates, called his interrogation “disgraceful, blatantly racist, and deeply dangerous.”

Cotton was unrepentant, though, arguing that Chew had been evasive during the discussion and pointing out that “anyone, especially leadership in a Chinese company, can work with the Chinese communists.” Although Chew took over as TikTok CEO in 2021, the company is Chinese-owned and is regularly, and credibly, accused of passing user data to the CCP. The company has admitted that, despite previous claims, it does store the data of American users on servers in China. While Chew might not be Chinese, the organization he runs definitely is –- so was it really so unreasonable for Cotton to probe his potential links to the Beijing regime? Cotton doesn’t think so.

~Here’s to Our Liberty!

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