China said today that it was "seriously concerned" about the Indian government blocking 59 Chinese apps and firmly opposed such action. India's move was "discriminatory" and "runs against fair and transparent practices," the Chinese embassy said in a statement.
"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 suspects of violating the WTO rules. It also goes against the general trend of international trade and E-commerce, and is not conducive to consumer interests and the market competition in India," Chinese Embassy spokesperson Ji Rong said.
TikTok, WeChat, UC Browser and two Xiaomi apps were among the apps blocked on Monday evening by the government over national security and privacy concerns, two weeks after the Ladakh clash with China in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the line of duty.
China said the apps had a large number of users in India and "have been operating strictly in accordance with Indian laws and regulations". The ban, said the Chinese Embassy statement, would affect not only the employment of local Indian workers who supported the apps, but also the interests of Indian users and the employment and livelihoods of many creators and entrepreneurs.
"We expect India acknowledges the mutually beneficial nature of China-India economic and trade cooperation, and urge the Indian side to change its discriminatory practices, maintain the momentum of China-India economic and trade cooperation, treat all investments and service providers equally, and create an open, fair and just business environment, while bearing in mind the fundamental interests of both sides and the overall interests of bilateral relations," said China.
Earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian was quoted by Reuters as saying at a daily briefing that India has a responsibility to uphold the rights of Chinese businesses.
The Ministry of Information Technology said the apps were "prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order."
The decision to disallow certain apps "is a targeted move to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace," said the ministry, asserting that it had received complaints alleging theft of user data and violations of user privacy.
The companies have been invited to offer clarifications before a government panel, which will decide whether the ban can be removed or will stay.
TikTok said it was in the process of complying with the government order and "continued to comply with data privacy and security requirements under Indian law".
In a statement, it also said it had not shared any information of users in India with "any foreign government, including the Chinese government" and "if we are requested to in the future we would not do so".
India is the biggest driver of the TikTok app and the ban is expected to badly hit its parent company Bytedance.
Anti-China sentiment has been simmering in India since the June 15 border clash in Ladakh. There have been calls for banning Chinese businesses, which reportedly export goods worth nearly $60 billion to India.