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US-China tensions

US appeals court rejects immediate WeChat ban

Three-judge panel says government lacks evidence of imminent damage by app

WeChat users said the ruling will avoid an "unprecedented shutdown of a major platform for communications relied on by millions of people in the United States."   © Reuters

A U.S. appeals court on Monday rejected a Justice Department request that it allow the government to immediately ban Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google from offering Tencent's WeChat for download in U.S. app stores.

The three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said in a brief order the government had not demonstrated it would "suffer an imminent, irreparable injury during the pendency of this appeal, which is being expedited."

On Friday, a U.S. judge in San Francisco rejected a Justice Department request to reverse her decision preventing the WeChat ban sought by the U.S. Commerce Department in response to a lawsuit filed by WeChat users.

The WeChat users said the ruling will avoid an "unprecedented shutdown of a major platform for communications relied on by millions of people in the United States."

The Commerce Department order, which had been set to take effect Sept. 20, would also bar other U.S. transactions with WeChat, potentially making the app unusable in the United States.

The appeals court said the case will be placed on its January 2021 calendar.

Tencent and the Commerce Department did not immediately comment.

The Justice Department argues WeChat and Chinese short video sharing app TikTok threaten U.S. national security.

WeChat has an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States. It is popular among Chinese students, Americans living in China and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.

WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.

In a similar case, a U.S. appeals court agreed to fast-track a government appeal of a ruling blocking the government from banning new TikTok downloads. 

(Reuters)

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