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Trump Appeals Judge’s Injunction on U.S. WeChat Prohibitions

Edvard Pettersson
·2 mins read

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration is asking a federal appeals court to reinstate the prohibitions against Chinese-owned social media app WeChat in the U.S. that were blocked by a judge last month.

The administration filed a notice of appeal Friday in the San Francisco federal court where a group of U.S. WeChat users won a preliminary injunction against what they said amounted to an outright ban of WeChat, which is used by millions of Chinese-speaking Americans.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler on Sept 20 prevented the Commerce Department from implementing the prohibitions, which include removing WeChat from mobile app stores in the U.S., that were supposed to go into effect that day. Beeler said the ban would violate the free-speech rights of the U.S. users who depend on the app.

The administration earlier asked the judge not to enforce her decision while it’s under appeal. She hasn’t ruled yet on that request, which is opposed by the users group.

President Donald Trump has said that WeChat, owned Tencent Holdings Ltd., as well as TikTok, owned by ByteDance Ltd., are a national security threat because the Chinese parent companies are intertwined with the Chinese Communist Party which can use the apps to spy on users and steal their private data. The U.S. WeChat users group have countered that the ban of the apps are prompted by election-year politics.

The prohibitions against TikTok were separately halted by a federal judge in Washington.

A lawyer for the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance said in a statement responding to the notice of appeal that the government hasn’t provided any evidence that WeChat has been used to spy on Americans.

“The government is trying to seek an emergency stay of the preliminary injunction,” said lawyer Clay Zhu. “But it has waited for twelve days to file the appeal. If WeChat truly represents an imminent threat to national security as the government claims, it should have filed an appeal on the same day or the next day of the preliminary injunction order. The reality is that there is no emergency.”

The case is U.S. WeChat Users Alliance v. Trump, 3:20-cv-5910, U.S. District Court, District of Northern California (San Francisco).

(Updates with WeChat users statement in seventh paragraph.)

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