I didn’t know who TikTok’s CEO was prior to this week. Yet, as I watched Chew Shou Zi being grilled mercilessly by US lawmakers for over 5 hours about his company’s data privacy and security policies and links with China, I couldn’t help but feel that some jobs come at a price.
Granted, the guy is intelligent, calm under pressure and seems to genuinely believe in the work his company does. As a fellow Singaporean, I am proud that he maintained a pleasant demeanour and was composed and polite in his answers. To his credit, many people would have struggled to maintain such composure in the face of such a long and gruelling questioning.
Yet I couldn’t help but feel that he was being put in the hot seat to single-handedly defend something that he did not necessarily have complete control over (namely, TikTok’s origins, how people choose to use the platform, how the algorithm was developed, etc)
It must have been tough facing a whole bunch of legislators who already have their minds made up about their stance and just wanted to prove their point and make it a spectacle for the world to see. It also showcased the prejudice that some had, with their thinly veiled attempts to make him admit to politically contentious statements such as whether he believed the Uyghur population was persecuted, or how they thought he was a Chinese national because of his race.
Fortunately, his moderate behaviour won him praise on the internet, and also support from people who felt that he was unfairly treated (or who were just charmed by his good looks, haha).
In my opinion, this whole fiasco will continue to be dragged out for what it’s worth but it is likely to be a foregone conclusion. The decision will the one that the Congress wants, regardless of the arguments put forth.
For Chew Shou Zi, however, maybe the road ahead for his company in the US will be tough. However, he can take pride in the remarkable job he did in defending him and his company’s stance.