WeChat users in the US sue Trump for blocking app
WeChat users in the United States filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump in an attempt to block an executive order that would ban access to the hugely popular Chinese messaging app in the country.
The complaint was filed Friday in San Francisco by the non-profit organization Alliance of WeChat Users in the United States and several people who say they depend on the app to work, pray and keep in touch with relatives in China. The plaintiffs claim not to be affiliated with WeChat, nor its parent company Tencent Holdings.
In the lawsuit, they asked a federal judge to prevent Trump's executive order from taking effect, stating that it would violate the freedom of expression, the free exercise of religion and other constitutional rights of users in the United States.
We believe there is an interest from the First Amendment to offer continued access to that app and its functionality for the Chinese-American community, Michael Bien, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, said Saturday.
On August 6, Trump ordered extensive but vague bans on transactions with the Chinese owners of WeChat and another popular app, TikTok, saying they are a risk to national security, foreign policy and the US economy.
Both executive orders, one for each app, are expected to go into effect on September 20, or 45 days after they are issued. The orders require Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, to define the prohibited transactions by then.
What the orders will mean for the millions of app users in the United States is still unknown, but experts say they appear to be intended to ban WeChat and TikTok from app stores operated by Apple and Google. That would make it more difficult to use in the United States.
The first thing we are going to try is a postponement of the application of penalties and sanctions - a reasonable period of time between explaining what the rules are and punishing people for not following them, Bien said.
TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, said on Saturday that it plans to challenge the executive order that Trump issued against the popular video app.
WeChat, which has more than 1 billion users, is less well known than TikTok among Americans with no ties to China.