Trump administration

Lawmakers blasted the UK government for sharing ‘confidential’ information in private messages to TikTok execs

Add Your Heading Text Here

 

Boris Johnson Edward Lister
Boris Johnson’s (left) senior aide Sir Edward Lister (right) was among those receiving the messages with TikTok 
Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images
  • British politicians reacted to Insider revealing the UK government told TikTok the ‘confidential’ identity of its next China ambassador.
  • One says Downing Street faces ‘serious questions’ on the tranche of messages, obtained under Freedom of Information laws.
  • They also showed the government trying to reassure TikTok over new national security powers.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The UK government has “serious questions” to answer, lawmakers have said after Insider revealed it told TikTok the confidential identity of its next China ambassador before the appointment was confirmed.

Insider published internal conversations between TikTok and senior government officials from January to June 2020, when the video app was reportedly negotiating to base its global headquarters in London.

The conversations took place even as TikTok was the subject of national security concerns in the US due to its ties to China.

Officials from the government’s trade department tried to reassure TikTok over wider plans to boost government powers to police foreign investments into the UK, the messages show.

The Department for International Trade (DfiT) also revealed, then asked TikTok to be “discreet” about, the news Caroline Wilson was likely the UK’s next ambassador to China, before the appointment was confirmed and four months before it was announced.  

Read the UK government correspondence with TikTok exclusively obtained by Insider

Politicians blasted the government for the revelations.

Labour MP Chris Elmore, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on social media, said the messages “leave a trail right to the Prime Minister’s own office.” Recipients on the messages included senior Downing Street officials such as Sir Edward Lister, then Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief strategic advisor.

Elmore added: “There are now serious questions that need to be answered by the UK government … We must all be concerned that strictly confidential information of national importance is being willingly shared with social media companies.

“We need to know what direction the Prime Minister gave to his staff to provide this information with TikTok, when did he first learn about this email exchange and what other sensitive information may have been shared from his office.”

“It is utterly contemptible to find ourselves yet again in the position where social media companies are operating in cosy back rooms to gain influence at the very heart of government.”

Andrew Lewer, a member of the China Research Group (CRG) of Conservative MPs launched by senior Tories last year to shape policy on China, was surprised by how the government acted.

He added attitudes to China have changed since the messages were sent last June. Conservative lawmakersare increasingly concerned about the UK’s trading relationship with China, particularly in light of atrocities against its Uighur minority population.

 

Insider originally requested the documents under Freedom of Information laws in July. 

“Reports of the contents of these documents serve to show how quickly sentiment within both government and the Parliamentary Party is hardening towards China,” Lever said, speaking personally rather than for the CRG.

“Some elements of these conversations, as reported, would be, at the very least, difficult to envisage happening now, even though it is less than a year later. They also illustrate the growing tension between China as a market for UK plc and its status as a human-rights abuser on a vast scale.”

Luke de Pulford, coordinator of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a group of lawmakers whose members include former UK Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and former US presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio, was also worried.

 

He decried “the so-called ‘Golden Era'” of British-Chinese relations under past governments when “the UK sold out to China, shelving our values in the hope of economic gain.”

“Many key civil servants have yet to smell the coffee,” he said. “There cannot be business as usual or behind closed doors deals with states credibly accused of genocide.”

Fears of TikTok’s ties to China stem from the fact its parent company ByteDance, though registered in the Cayman Islands, is headquartered in Beijing. Lawmakers worry that the firm could be compelled to hand over information about users to the Chinese regime.

TikTok has repeatedly denied it would share user data with the Chinese Government if asked.

 

TikTok declined to comment and DfIT did not respond.

Outging US ambassador says world must end Taiwan’s exclusion

Outging US ambassador says world must end Taiwan's exclusion

 
EDITH M. LEDERER
 
 

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — In a final swipe at China, the Trump administration’s outgoing U.N. ambassador tweeted that it’s time for the world to oppose China’s efforts to exclude and isolate Taiwan, drawing sharp criticism from Beijing.

To make the point even more graphic, Ambassador Kelly Craft accompanied the tweet with a photo of herself in the U.N. General Assembly Hall where the island is banned. And she carried a handbag with a stuffed Taiwan bear sticking out of the top, a gift from Taiwan’s representative in New York, Ambassador James Lee.

Taiwan left the United Nations in 1971 when China joined. Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province and has been using its diplomatic clout to stop its 23 million people from joining any organizations that require statehood for membership including the U.N. World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

 

American relations with Taiwan warmed under president Donald Trump, largely due to strong bipartisan support in Congress, but also because his administration was willing to defy Beijing’s threats and promote Taiwan as an alternative to Chinese Communist Party authoritarianism.

Craft met in September with Taiwan’s New York representative and had been scheduled to visit Taipei last week, but her trip was canceled after then secretary of state Mike Pompeo banned all travel.

Undeterred, she held a virtual meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on the evening of Jan. 13, telling her: “The United States will always stand with Taiwan.”

Earlier that day, she went into the General Assembly Hall, stood at the speaker’s podium, and recorded a virtual address to Model U.N. students in Taiwan.

Craft followed up those events with a statement Tuesday — her last full day as ambassador — stressing that the United States “is determined to end” Taiwan’s exclusion and isolation, and predicting this will continue with the administration of newly inaugurated President Joe Biden.

“The U.S. position on this matter enjoys universal bipartisan support,” she said, “and so, even as the United States is preparing for a transition, I can speak with great confidence that the U.S.-Taiwan relationship will continue to grow and strengthen.”

She called Taiwan “a force for good on the global stage — a vibrant democracy, a generous humanitarian actor, a responsible actor in the global health community, and a vigorous promoter and defender of human rights.”

In a final salvo during Trump’s final hours in office on Wednesday, Craft tweeted her appeal for an end to Taiwan’s isolation and exclusion, saying: “All @UN member states should recognize the benefits of Taiwan’s meaningful participation in int’l organizations & the damage done by its continued exclusion.”

The spokesperson for China’s U.N. Mission, referring to Craft’s photo in the General Assembly Hall, tweeted back: “Without prior notice to the UN, you sneaked into the GA Hall to record the video. You have not only violated the guidelines for the use of UN premises but also broken the rules for prevention of COVID-19. You’re spreading virus literally. Time to stop!”

A spokesman for Craft responded Thursday saying: “Ambassador Craft was proud to speak with the youth of Taiwan from the floor of the U.N. General Assembly, to underscore the outrageous fact that Taiwan’s voice remains unwelcome in that Hall.”

In her speech to Taiwan’s Model UN, Craft told the students: “Stay firm, say the words of democracy even in the wake of this moment. Because one day, you, too, will be standing here.”

To reinforce her personal commitment, she ended her statement on Tuesday saying: “As my posting at the U.N. comes to a close, my mission will not be complete until the people of Taiwan have a voice.”