WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill on Wednesday that would force TikTok to divest from its Chinese owner or get banned from the United States.

The lawmakers voted 352 in favour of the proposed law and 65 against, in a rare moment of bipartisan unity in politically divided Washington.

The fate of the bill is uncertain in the Senate, where some key figures are apprehensive of making such a drastic move against an app that has 170 million US users.

President Joe Biden will sign the bill, known officially as the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act,” into law if it came to his desk, the White House has said.

The measure, which only gained momentum in the past few days, requires TikTok’s parent company ByteDance to sell the app within 180 days or see it barred from the Apple and Google app stores across the US.

It also gives the president power to designate other applications to be a national security threat if under the control of a country considered adversarial to the US.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is in Washington, trying to shore up support to stop the bill.

“This latest legislation being rushed through at unprecedented speed without even the benefit of a public hearing, poses serious Constitutional concerns,” wrote Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s vice president for public policy.

The co-sponsors, House Republican Mike Gallagher and House Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi, as well as the White House, argue that the bill is not a ban of TikTok, as long as the company divests from ByteDance.

China warned on Wednesday that the move will “inevitably come back to bite the United States”.

“Although the US has never found evidence that TikTok threatens US national security, it has not stopped suppressing TikTok,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2024

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