China: India's ban on Chinese apps may violate WTO rules
TikTok logo on a mobile phone screen, February 21, 2019. /Reuters

TikTok logo on a mobile phone screen, February 21, 2019. /Reuters

China said on Tuesday that India's move to ban 59 Chinese-origin mobile apps could be a breach of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, and urged New Delhi to create an open and fair business environment.

"India's measure selectively and discriminatorily aims at certain Chinese apps on ambiguous and far-fetched grounds, runs against fair and transparent procedure requirements, abuses national security exceptions and (is suspected of) violating WTO rules," Ji Rong, spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, said in a statement.

TikTok was blocked on Google and Apple app stores in India after New Delhi said on Monday night it was among the 59 apps which it believed posed a "threat to sovereignty and integrity." A raucous move against China in the online space since fighting erupted on the two countries' border last month.

With more than 600 million downloads, India accounts for 30 percent of TikTok's two billion downloads worldwide. ByteDance last year hired several senior executives and laid out plans to invest one billion U.S. dollars in India, its top growth market.

Late on Tuesday, TikTok's already downloaded versions on phones in India stopped showing any videos.

Ji said the ban would affect Indian jobs, and urged India to treat all investments and service providers equally, and create an open, fair and just business environment.

The head of TikTok India issued a statement on Tuesday saying the firm has "not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese government."

Nikhil Gandhi added that "hundreds of millions of users, artists, story-tellers, educators and performers ... (depend) on it for their livelihood."

A Twitter screenshot

A Twitter screenshot

Many TikTok users posted videos expressing their displeasure before the app stopped showing content on Tuesday. Some told their followers to track their future posts on YouTube or Instagram.

One user @omkarsharma988 posted a video in which he throws utensils to the ground, hits a chair and weeps, with a Hindi song playing "You've left me, how will I live now?" The video had been liked 218,000 times, when the app still functioned on phones on which it was already downloaded.

(With input from Reuters)