India bans 59 Chinese apps after deadly border clash

India banned 59 Chinese mobile apps including ByteDance's TikTok and Tencent's WeChat two weeks after a deadly border clash between the two countries.

India on Tuesday banned 59 Chinese mobile apps including ByteDance’s TikTok and Tencent’s WeChat two weeks after a deadly border clash between the two countries.

India’s technology ministry issued an order stating the apps are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”

“The government of India has decided to disallow the usage of certain apps ... This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace,” the statement said, adding that the move was taken after the ministry received several complaints alleging theft of users’ data and violations of user privacy.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that China was very concerned about the Indian move and seeking more information. The Indian government has the responsibility to uphold the legitimate rights of foreign investors, while Chinese companies should abide by local laws, he said.

He added that China-India cooperation is mutually beneficial and damaging this is not in India’s interest.

Following the order, Google and Apple will have to remove these apps from Indian Android and iOS stores. It remains unclear, however, how the bans would work, with Indians who have downloaded TikTok on their phones still able to use the app on Tuesday.

Most of the applications are highly popular in India, including ByteDance-owned video-sharing apps TikTok and Helo, file-sharing app SHAREit and Alibaba’s UC browser, with a combined user base of over half a billion.

India is the biggest driver of TikTok app installations, accounting for 611 million lifetime downloads, or 30.3 percent of the total, app analytics firm Sensor Tower said in April. Other apps on the banned list include microblogging app Weibo and strategy game Clash of Kings.

TikTok “continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and has not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese government,” the company’s India chief Nikhil Gandhi said in a statement.

Relations between the world’s two most populous nations have been strained following the deaths of 20 Indian troops in hand-to-hand fighting with their Chinese counterparts on the western end of the high-altitude border in mid-June. The deaths triggered calls for the banning of Chinese businesses, which export goods worth nearly US$60 billion to India.

Indian customs at ports have held back containers coming from China since last week, including Apple, Cisco and Dell products, Reuters reported previously.

According to the Times of India, amid concerns over delays in customs clearance for imports from China, the minister of transport in India Nitin Gadkari argued that the order would hurt Indian people but not China. A mobile phone manufacturer in India told the Global Times that the company’s product sales have suffered significantly due to the Chinese product boycott in India. Chinese mobiles have an almost 65 percent share in the local smartphone market.

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