The firm declaration from China’s Commerce Ministry came just hours before TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is set to be grilled on Capitol Hill by US lawmakers seeking answers on the app’s potential risks to national security.
Any divestiture of ByteDance’s controlling stake in TikTok would require approval by the Chinese government, ministry spokeswoman Shu Jueting said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“If the news is true, China will firmly oppose it,” the spokeswoman said.
She added that the Biden administration’s threat of a national TikTok ban would hurt confidence in the US as a market for international investors.
Chew will testify before Congress for the first time in a hearing that could have major implications for TikTok’s future operations. The video-sharing app is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, with more than 100 million users in the US alone.
In prepared remarks released before the hearing, Chew argues that a divestiture would not address US lawmakers’ concerns about the data privacy of US users.
“We do not believe that a ban that hurts American small businesses, damages the country’s economy, silences the voices of over 150 million Americans, and reduces competition in an increasingly concentrated market is the solution to a solvable problem,” Chew said in the remarks.
Critics from both parties have called for a ban due to fears that China is using the app to snoop on Americans.
Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, recently likened TikTok to a “spy balloon into your phone.”
Silicon Valley executives, including billionaire Peter Thiel, have also lobbied for a crackdown on the ByteDance-owned app, the Wall Street Journal reported.
A group of prominent tech executives and lawmakers were reportedly set to hold a private dinner on Wednesday night on the eve of Chew’s testimony.
The attendees were expected to discuss competition between the US and China in the tech sector and its implications for national security.
Officials from the Committee on Foreign Investment — an interagency task force that assesses potential national security risks in business deals recently gave ByteDance executives an ultimatum to divest or face a ban, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The move brought the Biden administration closer in line with the stance of former President Donald Trump, who pursued a ban of TikTok in 2020 that was eventually struck down in federal court.
Global investors own about 60% of ByteDance shares, according to the company, while 20% are held by employees and 20% by its founders.