In a statement filed in federal court on Wednesday, the U.S. government said users who use or download it WeChat “For transmitting personal or business information” will not be subject to penalties under President Donald Trump’s executive order prohibiting transactions with the Tencent proprietary messaging app.
Trump issued the executive order against WeChat on August 6, the same day he published a lawsuit banning transactions with ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, claiming national security concerns. Both orders have caused confusion because they are ready to go into effect 45 days after they are issued, but they said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will not identify the transactions that are covered until then.
With this deadline set to expire later this week, WeChat users in America are still uncertain about the future of the app. Although WeChat is by far the largest messaging app in China, where it also serves as an essential conduit for payments and other services, the US version of the app has relatively limited features. It is used by Chinese-Americans, and by other members of the Chinese disapproval in the United States, to keep in touch with their family and other people in China. With other popular messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, banned in China, WeChat is often the most direct communication channel available to them.
The U.S. government’s submission (embedded below) was made in the framework of a request for a preliminary injunction against the executive order brought by the US WeChat Users Alliance, a non-profit organization initiated by lawyers who want to preserve access to WeChat for users in the United States A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
In it, Justice Department attorneys say the U.S. Department of Commerce will continue to review transactions and clarify those affected by Sept. 20, but “we can provide assurances. [Secretary Ross] does not intend to take actions targeting individuals or groups whose only connection to WeChat is their use or download of the application to transmit personal or business information between users, or otherwise define the relevant transaction in a thus imposing criminal or civil liability on such users. “
But in a response (also included below), the USC WeChat Users Alliance said that the Department of Justice’s submission shows instead why a preliminary injunction is needed. Having failed before articulating any current national security concerns, the administration’s latest “assurances” that users can continue to use WeChat, and exchange their personal and business information, only further illustrate the cavity and nature pre-textual statement of the national security of the Defendants. rational. “”
The WeChat User Alliance presented the injunction on August 21st. In an open letter posted on his website, he said that a complete ban on WeChat “will seriously affect the lives and work of millions of people in the United States. Time talking to family relatives and friends in China. Countless people or companies that use WeChat to develop and contact customers also suffer significant economic losses. ”
The group also believes the executive order “violates many provisions of the United States Constitution,” and the Administrative Procedure Act.