SINGAPORE: While the founder of Bytedance, Zhang Yiming, has retained his Chinese citizenship, he has made Singapore his home base for the past few years. This information has emerged as part of the lawsuit filed by TikTok against the United States government.

TikTok, arguably the most popular app in the world particularly with Gen Z and Millennials, is owned by ByteDance, an internet company headquartered in Haidian, Beijing. The video platform is not only enormously popular but has also been extremely profitable, with US$16 billion (S$21.4 billion) in revenue in 2023, and a reported valuation of US$100 billion (S$135 billion).

But TikTok has also been under scrutiny from the US government over the past few years over national security concerns. A law was signed in April stating the app would be banned unless TikTok was sold to another entity. Following this, the company vowed to put up a legal fight, citing infringement on the free speech rights of its users.

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It was in the course of this lawsuit that Mr Zhang’s residence was revealed. A report in Fortune notes that Mr Zhang, who owns a  21 per cent stake in ByteDance worth over US$40 billion (S$54 billion), is just one among several corporate heavyweights from China who have settled in Singapore over the years, including billionaire crypto entrepreneur Jihan Wu, now a Singaporean citizen; and Alibaba Group Holding’s CEO Eddie Wu.

Fortune also notes that when Mr Zhang made Singapore his home base in 2022, it sparked rumours that he would apply for citizenship. Current ByteDance CEO Liang Rubo, who co-founded the company and was roommates in college with Mr Zhang, also lives in Singapore, and Shou Chew, the CEO of TikTok, is Singaporean.

ByteDance was given 270 days to sell TikTok. This ends on Jan 19, 2025.

In March, as the new law advanced in the US, Mr Shou vowed to fight the ban and sought to clarify the allegations against the company, saying, “We have invested to keep your data safe and our platform free from outside manipulation. We have committed that we would continue to do so.”

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He also underlined that the ban would put more than 300,000 American jobs at risk as well as “take away your TikTok.”

“We know how important TikTok is to all of you. It has given our 170 million users a platform to freely express themselves and has empowered more than 7 million businesses in the United States.” / TISG

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