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India just banned 59 Chinese apps, including some of country’s most popular

Seven out of the top 20 most-downloaded apps in India in 2020 are on the list.

Indian woman using mobile phone Rawpixel.com / Adobe Stock / 图虫创意

The Indian government on Monday announced its decision to block 59 apps citing cybersecurity concerns. While it avoided singling out China, all of the blacklisted apps, which include ByteDance’s TikTok and Helo, Tencent’s WeChat and Alibaba’s UC browser and VMate, all originate in China.

The Ministry of Information Technology, the authority taking charge of the country’s digital space, said these apps are “engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, the security of state and public order,” therefore, it will disallow the usage of them in both mobile and non-mobile internet-enabled devices.

The ban also includes Kuaishou’s Kwai and Uvideo, YY Inc’s Bigo and Likee, sharing app Shareit, Xiaomi’s Mi Video Call, and Tencent’s QQ-family of apps (its marquee title, PUBG Mobile, which was the top-grossing game in India this year, was not on the list).

Notably, seven out of the top 20 most-downloaded apps in India in 2020 are on the list, according to stats from industry data tracker App Annie viewed by KrASIA.

At the time of writing, most of these apps are still available on the India’s Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store, KrASIA found. But ByteDance’s social app Helo has been removed from Google Play Store. Google said it had yet to receive the order from New Delhi, and Apple said it was reviewing the order, TechCrunch wrote.

On Tuesday, TikTok India replied to the announcement in a Twitter post.

“We have been invited to meet with concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications,” it said.

When TikTok was blocked in India for a week in 2019, ByteDance said in a court filing that the ban resulted in financial losses of up to USD 500,000 a day for its developer.

The ban comes amidst mounting tensions between the two neighboring countries. On June 15, India and China clashed in a disputed Himalayan region that left 20 Indian soldiers dead and more than 70 injured. This added fuel to already active calls to boycott China in India.

The top smartphone vendor in India, China-headquartered Xiaomi, opted to cover its Mi Store showroom with “Made In India” banners.

Since mid-May, an Indian-developed app entitled “Remove Chinese Apps” which allows users to spot and remove Chinese apps from their devices began trending in the country before being pulled from the Google Play Store later in June.

Recently, Chinese companies also have run into hurdles when making investments in the Indian market. Zomato, the Indian food ordering and restaurant guide app, reportedly is in talks with its existing backer Singapore-based Temasek in the hopes of securing USD 100 million, after a pre-announced injection from Ant Financial was delayed due to the anti-China sentiment and new foreign direct investment (FDI) rules.