Popular video-sharing app TikTok banned the account of a Chinese international student in the United States after he posted a video making fun of the Chinese regime, a decision he believes is a testament to the platforms allegiance to the Chinese regimes censorship rules.
TikTok is developed and owned by the Beijing-based company ByteDance.
In early June, Zhou Jianming, who is currently studying in New Jersey, posted a video where he lampoons the Chinese regime with his remade lyrics sung to the Chinese national anthem.
He said it was a response to the Hong Kong legislatures passage of a bill that would criminalize insulting the Chinese anthem in Hong Kong. The legislature is dominated by pro-Beijing lawmakers.
The video, which lasts 48 seconds, is also loaded with images satirizing Chinese officials and the Chinese Communist Partys (CCP) mishandling of the current pandemic. “Kneel, traitors who want to be slaves,” Zhou sang while wearing a T-shirt with the bauhinia emblem that appears on the flag of Hong Kong.
In less than 24 hours, TikTok deleted his account, citing community guideline violations, according to an email sent by TikTok that The Epoch Times reviewed. The app also denied his request to appeal.
“It made me extremely angry,” he told The Epoch Times, noting that he was using the U.S.-version of the app. “Since its operating in the United States, it should obey U.S. laws,” he said.
U.S. lawmakers and researchers have long been critical of TikTok and other Chinese apps, amid growing national security concerns that such apps could collect data from U.S. users for the Chinese regime. The U.S. military and Transportation Security Administration (TSA), as well as the Australian Department of Defense have stopped allowing employees to use the app due to such concerns.
Concerns about TikToks censorship emerged last November, when the company blocked the account of a U.S. teen who posted a video criticizing Beijings treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Chinas far-western region of Xinjiang.
TikTok has not clarified which specific community guideline he has violated, Zhou said. He believes Chinese pressure was likely behind the account ban.
TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
After he posted the video, online trolls on TikTok sent messages with death threats. One user said Zhou would be “torn into pieces the next time you step out the door.”
Other Chinese-affiliated apps have recently come under scrutiny. Video-conferencing app Zoom, which exploded in popularity during the lockdown as many began working from home, recently drew scrutiny from a dozen bipartisan lawmakers in June for suspending the accounts of three prominent activists upon the Chinese regimes requests. The company is owned by a Chinese entrepreneur, and has research and development staff, as well as offshore servers, in China.