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Chinese firm TikTok 'shelves plan to build global HQ in UK' as economic relations with Beijing worsen

TikTok is said to have shelved plans to build a new global headquarters in the UK (PA)

3 min read

The Chinese social media giant TikTok is said to have shelved plans to build its global headquarters in the UK.

It comes amid rising tensions with Beijing after Huawei was banned from Britain’s 5G network and criticism of the Hong Kong security law.

The video-creation and sharing app's parent company ByteDance had been in discussions with the Department for International Trade and Number 10 about creating a worldwide base in London.

But The Sunday Times is reporting that the firm has decided to suspend the plans, which could have created 3,000 jobs, due to the "wider geopolitical context".

A statement from TikTok issued to the paper said: "We remain fully committed to investing in London and inspiring creativity and bringing joy to our users around the world."

And a Government spokesperson said: "ByteDance's decision on the location of their global HQ is a commercial decision for the company.

"The UK is a fair and open market for investment where it supports UK growth and jobs.”

The news broke after Communist Party officials warned British firms operating in China, including Jaguar Land Rover, BP and GlaxoSmithKline, they could face retaliation over Boris Johnson’s decision on Huawei.

After the meeting on Friday a source familiar with the discussion said: “The message was that retaliation is coming and that British firms in China are in the firing line.” 

And there are fears high-profile investment deals in the UK by China such as the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station could also be affected if the breakdown in relations becomes a full-blown economic war.

On Monday Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, will give a statement to Parliament about the Hong Kong extradition treaty, which the government feels Beijing could use to try to silence dissent around the world.

And the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, will visit London this week amid a report that the Huawei U-turn was made partly due to the huge pressure from American president Donald Trump.

The Observer said the British government privately told the Chinese technology giant “geopolitical” reasons had been a factor, and the decision could be revisited in future if there is a change in administration at the White House.

The report is at odds with public statements last week by ministers, who said Huawei had been banned due to new security concerns raised by the National Cyber Security Centre.

On Sunday Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show Huawei had been "purged" as a result of pressure from the USA.

"There is no hard, solid evidence to say Huawei is a risk to the UK," he said. "They have been  here 20 years."

He added: "It’s a dark day for the United Kingdom, you missed an opportunity to be a leading country."

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