GOP senator asks TikTok's CEO over and over if he's Chinese. He's Singaporean.

  • Sen. Tom Cotton repeatedly asked TikTok's head about his citizenship.

  • CEO Shou Zi Chew is Singaporean, as he reminded Cotton multiple times.

  • The tech leader was joined by four other social media heads during a congressional hearing.

During Wednesday's tense congressional testimony over online safety for children, Sen. Tom Cotton repeatedly asked Singaporean TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew if he's ever been a part of the Chinese Communist Party.

An increasingly agitated Chew, who's no stranger to US politicians' prodding, tried repeatedly to shut down the line of questioning by telling the conservative senator that he's Singaporean.

Cotton fired off rounds of questions to Chew on his past, present, and future citizenship, his passport, his wife and kids' American citizenship, and whether he is or ever has been a member of or affiliated with the Chinese communist party.

"Senator, I'm Singaporean, no," Chew responded.

Chew was joined by four other social media companies' CEOs Wednesday for a combative hearing on protecting children online in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Other companies represented included X, Meta, Snap, and Discord, all of which have come under fire for failing to protect children from online predators, harassment, or exploitation, among other issues.

Chew and the platform's China-based parent company ByteDance have attracted the lion's share of politicians' grilling amid calls to ban the platform here and concerns that the Chinese government could misuse user data.

"The worries about Chinese influence through the parent company are harder to put to bed," Jamie MacEwan, senior media analyst at Enders Analysis, previously told Business Insider.

"So long as ByteDance is the owner, it will be difficult to convince politicians that managers in Beijing are not exercising undue operational control, or accessing sensitive data, whatever internal measures have been put in place," MacEwan said.

However that grilling often feeds into judgement-clouding anti-Asian rhetoric, Business Insider's Paayal Zaveri previously reported.

During another tense hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in March 2023, Zaveri noted, lawmakers bungled Chew's name, pressed him on whether he had ties to China, and failed to give him a chance to respond during rants on the Chinese Communist Party.

Zaveri put it this way:

The rhetoric at times seemed to paint the Chinese people with a broad brush and conflated people of Chinese ancestry with the will of the CCP. That paints a target on the back of Asian Americans, Chinese nationals living in the US, and, by extension, all other Asian populations, advocacy experts said.

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