Kathmandu, February 12: China’s persistent efforts to persuade Nepal to lift the ban on the social media platform TikTok have intensified, triggering a diplomatic tussle between the two nations. Since the Nepalese government imposed the ban on TikTok citing concerns over social harmony, China has been actively lobbying for its reversal.
In the last week of January, a delegation comprising five members, including a representative from Pakistan, engaged in discussions with various Nepali agencies for a week. However, despite their efforts, no breakthrough was achieved during their visit.
The decision to shut down TikTok was made during a cabinet meeting held on November 13, 2023, with concerns raised about the platform’s alleged disruption of social harmony. Despite TikTok’s repeated appeals to reconsider the ban and its assurances to address the government’s concerns by removing objectionable content, the ban remains in place.
TikTok representatives have intensified their efforts, holding numerous meetings in Kathmandu since the ban was imposed. A recent proposal to discuss the matter with the cyber bureau of the police suggests a strategic shift towards seeking assistance from Nepali law enforcement agencies.
Following the return of the five-member team, a two-member delegation arrived in Nepal on Wednesday, aiming to meet high-ranking officials, including Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’. However, the Prime Minister deferred the meeting, advising the team to consult with the Minister of Communications and his IT team first.
On December 5, 2023, Ferdous Mottakin, Head of Public Policy and Government Relations of TikTok for South Asia, met with Prime Minister’s IT expert Prakash Rayamajhi and officials of the Ministry of Communications. Since then, TikTok representatives have engaged with various Nepali agencies in an attempt to overturn the ban.
Despite their efforts, the Nepali government remains steadfast in its decision. The Supreme Court rejected 14 writ petitions challenging the ban on November 21, 2023, citing no ‘irreparable damage’. Nepali officials have consistently emphasized the need to maintain social harmony and uphold community standards, reiterating that TikTok’s content does not align with Nepali society.
Although TikTok has expressed willingness to comply with Nepali regulations and even offered to register in Nepal, government officials remain skeptical. Minister of Communication and Information Technology Rekha Sharma reiterated that TikTok’s content does not adhere to Nepali community standards and emphasized the importance of following due process.
The ban on TikTok has stirred diplomatic tensions between Nepal and China, with the Chinese government expressing strong dissatisfaction with the decision. China views the ban as ‘anti-China’ and interprets it within the context of broader global trends of discouraging Chinese technology.
As the standoff continues, TikTok representatives persist in their efforts to lobby for the ban’s reversal, while Nepali officials remain committed to upholding social harmony and cultural values. With both sides entrenched in their positions, the fate of TikTok in Nepal remains uncertain.