WeChat ban urged by US gets sceptical review by appeal court
- The Trump administration is seeking to overturn an earlier decision to grant a preliminary injunction against US restrictions on the Chinese-owned app
- Judge is concerned that restrictions are intended to make app disappear completely in the US, leaving no good alternative for millions of Chinese-American users
The Trump administration’s attempt to reinstate US restrictions on the Chinese-owned WeChat app was met with scepticism by a judicial panel.
The US Court of Appeals in San Francisco signalled on Thursday it was largely sceptical of efforts to overturn the decision of a federal magistrate judge, who last year granted a preliminary injunction to WeChat users in the US who said the government restrictions amounted to an outright ban in violation of their right of free speech.
Circuit Judge Ryan D. Nelson, a Trump appointee, expressed concern that the restrictions are intended to make the app disappear completely in the US, providing no good alternative for millions of Chinese-Americans who communicate with friends, family and business partners in China.
The US says the social-media platform, owned by Tencent Holdings, poses a national security risk.
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“If the government’s goal was to shut down WeChat completely, what other alternatives are there?” Nelson asked the administration’s lawyer. “WeChat is so popular in China because there are no other alternatives.”
Circuit Judge Jay Bybee, a George W. Bush appointee, asked whether, in addition to free-speech concerns, the court should not also determine if the administration overstepped its authority under emergency-powers law it invoked.
A federal judge in Washington last year blocked the administration’s similar ban on TikTok, another Chinese-owned social media app, on those grounds.
The judges took the government’s appeal under submission without indicating how they would rule.