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Trump Asks U.S. Court to Allow WeChat Ban to Proceed

Zheping Huang
·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump asked a San Francisco judge to stay an injunction blocking a ban on Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat, as the legal fights grow over the administration’s moves against Chinese-owned apps.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler issued a preliminary injunction on Sept. 19 at the behest of users who argued those prohibitions trampled the free-speech rights of millions of Chinese-speaking Americans. The app, which was supposed to disappear from American stores Sunday, hosted 19 million regular users in the country and more than a billion worldwide.

“The Court’s preliminary injunction permits the continued, unfettered use of WeChat, a mobile application that the Executive Branch has determined constitutes a threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” government lawyers wrote in their filing Thursday. It would allow Beijing to “surveil the American people and collect and use vast swaths of personal and proprietary information from American users to advance its own interests.”

In a separate filing Friday, the U.S. said it would submit classified information supporting its motion, including an assessment by the Director of National Intelligence.

WeChat has emerged as a top target in Trump’s crackdown on China ahead of the November elections. Tensions between Washington and Beijing escalated after his administration waged a campaign that’s also ensnared ByteDance Ltd. and its short-video service TikTok. The U.S. faces a 2:30 p.m. deadline in Washington from another judge who ordered the government to postpone its ban on TikTok set for Sunday or respond to a request by the app’s Chinese owner for a court order temporarily blocking the ban.

Read more: Chevron Asks Global Employees to Delete WeChat After Trump Ban

The U.S. says WeChat is a threat because Tencent is intertwined with the Chinese Communist Party, which can use the app to disseminate propaganda, track users, and steal their data. It’s a similar argument Washington has used to force a sale of TikTok to American firms Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc., a mega-deal now awaiting Trump’s and Beijing’s sign-offs.

The judge in California has previously found the government provided insufficient evidence of a security threat. “While the government has established that China’s activities raise significant national security concerns -- it has put in scant little evidence that its effective ban of WeChat for all U.S. users addresses those concerns,” Judge Beeler wrote in her order.

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 filing on classified information in fourth paragraph.)

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