Documents filed by a U.S. government court on Wednesday show that the imminent U.S. ban on Chinese social media apps WeChat will not target people who use it to communicate.
President Trump issued an order on August 6 to use WeChat and TikTok as national security threats, and set a deadline of September 20 for the Commerce Department to draft measures to block “transactions” with Chinese users of these apps.
The non-profit American WeChat User Alliance and several people who claim to rely on the app for work, worship and keep in touch with their Chinese relatives sued to stop the ban in California federal court. The lawsuit alleges that the ban violates the freedom of speech, freedom of religious belief and other constitutional rights of its American users.
Users said they are not affiliated with WeChat or its parent company, Tencent, and they are seeking an injunction against the order, and a hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday.
U.S. WeChat users rely on the app to talk to friends, family, and colleagues in China, while in China, messaging, payment, and social media apps are widely used. It has millions of users in the United States.
In Wednesday’s filing, the Department of Justice said that the Department of Commerce “does not plan to take action that would target persons or groups whose only connect with WeChat is their use or download of the app to share personal or business information between users.” It said that such users would not be subject to “criminal or civil liability.”
The filling said that the use and download of the app for communication will not be banned from transaction, although the ban may “directly or indirectly impaired” messaging on the app.
The filing said these “assurances largely address” the plaintiff’s concerns about the injunction.
The lead lawyer for WeChat users, Michael Bien, said that the plaintiffs will respond on Wednesday.
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Prepared by: Vivian Lee