China has become an “evil” empire that harvests Britons’ data through its apps such as TikTok, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned.
Donald Trump’s right-hand man said anything posted on sites such as the video-sharing platform, run by Beijing-based firm ByteDance, “will end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party”.
The US is considering banning TikTok — a phenomenon with fans ranging from kids to celebs.
Mr Pompeo explained: “It is not possible to have your personal information flow across a Chinese server without the rest of that information ending up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.
“This is not about any particular company, it is about the obligation to protect the data of American citizens.”
The pressure this week threw the future of TikTok’s planned UK base in doubt.
Giving the only newspaper interview of his UK visit to The Sun, Mr Pompeo urged Britain to protect its public.
He said: “You have to make sure the data you are providing to us, into our government institutions, has passed only through trusted networks. Otherwise it is too difficult to make sure this data is secure.
“So we are working with like-minded democracies across the world to implement this central concept of trusted vendors, trusted networks.”
In his first trip to the UK since the coronavirus crisis, Mr Pompeo said countries had to stand up to China.
He admitted “confronting evil is hard”, but insisted “freedom loving democracies” like the UK had to work with the US to “convince the Chinese Communist Party to behave”.
Speaking a week after the UK barred Chinese firm Huawei from future involvement in 5G networks over security fears, he added: “We all know Communists, right?
“We know what authoritarian regimes do. We know the nature of this ideology.
“The way in which freedom-loving democracies behave — whether in the military space, the diplomatic space, the commercial space — the Chinese Communist Party simply isn’t behaving in that way.
“We also know there are hundreds of millions of Chinese people who are demanding that they continue to grow their economy and are looking for things that matter to them.
“And that’s why I’ve always talked about this being the Chinese Communist Party driving this bad behaviour.”
Mr Pompeo told how, while President Trump may have made China a priority, he could understand why other countries had been slow to take on a regime so quick to “punish” anyone who annoyed them.
Confronting evil is hard. It requires communicating to your people. There are real costs on the nations that confront it.
Mr Pompeo said: “Confronting evil is hard. It requires communicating to your people. There are real costs on the nations that confront it.”
Previous US leaders — Republican and Democratic alike — had been affected by China’s belligerence but “just weren’t prepared to admit” to the problem.
He said they had believed once China opened up commercially it leaders would conform to international norms, but added: “That simply didn’t happen.”
The latest evidence was the way Chinese officials had silenced, or “disappeared”, its scientists who tried to raise the alarm over Covid-19.
The Secretary of State said: “The world saw it four-square with the massive cover up that took place with the Wuhan virus.
“The world is still suffering. We have people dying all across the world, each and every day. And you still have a cover up that is continuing. No nation should permit China to get away with this.”
The US has been highly critical of the World Health Organisation. On Tuesday Mr Pompeo even told MPs director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had been “bought” by the Chinese government.
But he told The Sun he still hoped a WHO inquiry would uncover the truth.