US President Donald Trump’s executive orders banning transactions between US citizens and Chinese entities Wechat and Bytedance are about to be challenged in court, with short video platform Tiktok planning to file a federal lawsuit as early as Tuesday while a group of Chinese American lawyers announced it would file multiple lawsuits to challenge the Wechat ban.

Why it matters: Trump’s executive orders, announced late Thursday, aren’t just pitting the White House against Chinese companies: it puts the administration on a collision course with US consumers. It may also be illegal, according to the US Wechat Users Alliance.

Read more: US Wechat ban will mean more than lost connections

Details: Tiktok will argue that the executive order is unconstitutional because it did not give the company a chance to respond, and that concerns about Tiktok as a national security risk are “baseless,” according to an NPR report.

  • In a statement released August 7, Tiktok said it was “shocked” by Trump’s order. “This Executive Order risks undermining global businesses’ trust in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law,” the company said. 
  • A group of Chinese American lawyers announced (in Chinese) on August 8 that it would file lawsuits after “multiple rounds of discussions” in the close-knit community about the Trump’s executive order involving Wechat. Some of the lawyers formed a non-profit organization, US Wechat Users Alliance, to assist fundraising efforts to file suits in multiple locations. 
  • They will argue that the executive order goes against provisions of the US Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act, according to the announcement.
  • Clay Zhu, an attorney at Deheng Law Offices in California who is involved with the litigation efforts, told TechNode that the term “transaction” used in the Wechat order refers to a previous executive order from May 15, 2019. That order, focused on securing the US technology supply chain, defined transaction as “acquisition, importation, transfer, installation, dealing in, or use of any information and communications technology or service.” 
  • If the May 2019 definition of “transaction” is applied to Wechat, Zhu added, it would effectively be a total ban of the app. 
  • The group hasn’t yet filed any suits, but California or Washington state are top choices due to their more liberal courts and judges favorable to the issues they will raise, Zhu said.
  • “We understand that Wechat is a flawed app. We can choose not to use it, but Mr. President has no right to make this choice on our behalf,” the announcement said. 

“Trump’s reasons for doing this are not well articulated and there’s been no testing of his reasons. He says Wechat violates our national security—how? Where’s the evidence? This needs to be investigated by the courts.”

Angus Ni, attorney at AFN Law involved in the litigation against Trump’s executive order, to TechNode on Monday

Context: Anti-China rhetoric from the US government is solidifying into plans to keep Chinese tech out of the US. 

  • Wechat has 19 million daily active users in the US, and Tiktok has over 100 million monthly users in the country.
  • A US State Department-initiated program announced on August 5 dubbed the Clean Network would purge made-in-China tech from US networks. 
  • Huawei, a long-time target of the Trump administration, was placed in May 2019 on a list of foreign firms deemed a risk to national security.