The leading Asian American caucus in Congress has accused Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) of “racist” questioning of TikTok’s CEO at a congressional hearing this week.
In a hearing Wednesday, leaders from across big tech were summoned to testify on the issue of online child safety. In addition to TikTok, executives from Meta, X, Snap and Discord were accused by lawmakers of failing to protect children from online abuse and exploitation.
In the hearing, Cotton repeatedly asked TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew about possible ties to China. Chew repeatedly responded that he is Singaporean.
When Cotton asked if Chew had ever applied for Chinese citizenship, Chew said no, adding in what appeared to be growing frustration that he served in the Singaporean military for two years and holds a Singaporean passport. Chew confirmed his wife and children are both American citizens but he has not yet applied for American citizenship.
The senator then asked Chew if he has “ever been a member of the Chinese Communist Party.”
”Senator, I’m Singaporean. No,” Chew responded.
“Have you ever been associated or affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party?” Cotton asked.
“No, senator. Again, I’m Singaporean,” Chew said.
Cotton proceeded to ask Chew about what happened in 1989 in Tiananmen Square.
“You said earlier, in response to a question, that what happened in Tiananmen Square in June of 1989 was a ‘massive protest,’” Cotton said. “Anything else happen in Tiananmen Square?”
“Yes, I think it’s well-documented, there was a massacre,” said Chew.
The line of questioning drew rebuke from the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), which shared a clip of the questioning on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
“Conflating Asian individuals with the CCP is not only racist, it is incredibly dangerous,” the caucus posted. “This type of rhetoric has no place in the halls of Congress or in our country.”
The CAPAC is chaired by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and includes 77 senators and House members either of Asian American or Pacific Islander (AAPI) descent or who “have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being” of the AAPI community.
TikTok, which is owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance, has previously faced scrutiny from Democrats and Republicans alike.
Cotton told Fox News’s “The Story With Martha MacCallum” on Wednesday that Chew “has a lot to answer for.”
“Singapore, unfortunately, is one of the places in the world that has the highest degree of infiltration and influence by the Chinese Communist Party,” Cotton said.
The Hill has reached out to Cotton’s office for comment.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), the whip for the CAPAC, also condemned Cotton’s questions.
“Dear @SenTomCotton: FYI, in Asia there are different countries. Citizens of different countries may look similar to you, but in fact they are from different countries,” Lieu wrote on X. “Happy to provide additional basic facts to you or your staff that I learned in elementary school. Ask anytime.”