Alex Zhu, the head of short video app TikTok, has cancelled meetings with several US lawmakers who raised questions about data security and censorship on the platform, The Hill reported.

Why it matters: Following a national security investigation of TikTok’s Musical.ly acquisition, TikTok has been trying to assure US lawmakers that despite the company’s Chinese roots, it poses no risk to user data and national security.

  • Parent company Bytedance has been moving to separate TikTok from its Chinese businesses to allay suspicions from US regulators.

Details: Zhu had planned to meet with Republican Senators Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, and Marsha Blackburn this week but on Monday postponed the meeting until after the holidays due to scheduling issues and the holiday rush, the report said citing a TikTok spokesperson.

  • The rescheduling is intended to help TikTok plan more meetings with lawmakers when Congress is not occupied by impeachment hearings and other issues, a person familiar with the matter told The Hill.
  • A TikTok spokesperson said that answering questions from Congress remains the top priority for the company, but in order to make the conversations more productive, TikTok hopes to hold them after the holidays.
  • “What is the real reason TikTok has cancelled my meeting with CEO Alex Zhu? What are they really doing with your data and what type surveillance are they conducting on your precious children? TikTok — you owe us answers,” Senator Blackburn tweeted.
  • TikTok also reached out to Senator Marco Rubio, but his office had declined the meeting request, a spokesperson for the senator told TechNode in an email.

Context: This is not the first time TikTok pulled out of a meeting with US lawmakers at the last minute, according to the Hill report.

  • Before Senator Hawley organized a congressional hearing to explore the security and censorship risks TikTok poses, he had plans to meet with a group of TikTok lobbyists, who cancelled the meeting right before it started.
  • TikTok also declined to testify at Hawley’s hearing and instead sent a letter denying the senator’s accusations.

TikTok leader to meet US lawmakers in Washington

Update: included comments from Senator Marco Rubio’s office.

Tony Xu

Tony Xu is Shanghai-based tech reporter. Connect with him via e-mail: tony.xu@technode.com

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