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Republican senator faces backlash for asking TikTok CEO if he’s a secret Chinese communist

‘Happy to provide additional basic facts to you or your staff that I learned in elementary school. Ask anytime,’ California Democrat tells Tom Cotton

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 01 February 2024 19:58 GMT
Republican senator asks TikTok CEO if he’s a secret Chinese communist

Tom Cotton is facing widespread criticism after he asked Singaporean TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew if had “ever been a member of the Chinese Communist Party”.

The Arkansas Republican senator pursued the much-ridiculed line of questioning during a Senate hearing on child safety on social media on Wednesday, which was attended by a number of big tech CEOs such as Mr Chew.

“You said today, as you often say, that you live in Singapore – of what nation are you a citizen?” Mr Cotton asked.

“Singapore,” the CEO responded.

“Are you a citizen of any other nation?” the senator asked, to which Mr Chew, 41, said he wasn’t.

“Have you ever applied for Chinese citizenship?” Mr Cotton, 46, pressed on, to which the CEO also said he had not.

“Do you have a Singaporean passport?” the senator continued.

“Yes. And I served my military for two and a half years in Singapore,” Mr Chew said.

“Do you have any other passports from any other nation?” Mr Cotton asked, to which Mr Chew yet again answered in the negative.

“Your wife is an American citizen. Your children are American citizens. Have you ever applied for American citizenship?” Mr Cotton asked, to which the CEO said “no, not yet”.

“Have you ever been a member of the Chinese Communist Party?” Mr Cotton then asked.

“Senator, I'm Singaporean – no,” Mr Chew responded.

Unable to let the matter go, Mr Cotton asked: “Have you ever been associated or affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party?”

“No, senator, again, I'm Singaporean,” the tech CEO said.

Mr Cotton then moved on to ask about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, which were student-led protests that ended with a violent crackdown by the military, with estimates of how many were killed varying widely, going from low hundreds to thousands of civilians killed. The massacre is to this day one of the most sensitive and heavily censored issues in China.

Mr Chew agreed that the crackdown on the protest had turned into a “massacre”.

When Mr Cotton started asking about the Chinese treatment of the Uyghur people, which the US government has called a genocide, Mr Chew avoided commenting directly on the matter.

He also declined to comment on President Joe Biden calling Chinese leader Xi Jinping a “dictator”.

Mr Cotton quickly faced condemnation and mockery for his line of questioning regarding the Chinese Communist Party, with California Democrat Ted Lieu writing on X: “Dear @SenTomCotton: FYI, in Asia there are different countries. Citizens of different countries may look similar to you, but in fact they are from different countries. Happy to provide additional basic facts to you or your staff that I learned in elementary school. Ask anytime.”

Elie Mystal of The Nation wrote that “Tom Cotton is a racist dip***t and while it’s always fashionable to focus on the racist part, I really don’t think the dip***t part gets enough attention”.

MSNBC host Katie Phang added: “Hey @SenTomCotton: Singapore is not China – Singapore has been self-governed since 1959 – Singapore is not a communist state. And, here’s the real kicker for you: – Not all Asians are Chinese and we aren’t all secretly members of the ‘Chinese Communist Party’.”

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