Asia, Business & trade, Top Stories, US-China tensions

WeChat owner Tencent registers in-house lobby shop

The owner of China’s ubiquitous WeChat app has registered to lobby in-house as it continues to build up its response to the Donald Trump administration’s legal attacks.

Tencent Holdings Limited has registered to lobby on “issues related” to Trump’s Aug. 6 executive order targeting the company, as well as the order’s “implementation” and “related matters.” The Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) registration was effective Aug. 14.

Three of the company’s top officials are registered on the account, highlighting the growing threat posed by the US administration’s hawkish stance. They are:

  • Brent Irvin, the vice president and general counsel at Tencent and head of US subsidiary Tencent America;
  • Timothy Tin Tai Ma, the head of Tencent’s department of international privacy and data protection; and
  • Chia-Chi Li, Tencent’s legal director.

The company is headquartered in Shenzhen, China but incorporated in the Cayman Islands.

Tencent’s in-house registration comes after several outside lobbyists signed up on the account following President Trump’s order giving US companies 45 days to unwind their commercial relations with the company.

In another new LDA filing, New York law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison disclosed that it had added two associates to its account with Tencent Holdings: Julie Rooney and Anand Sithian. They join Paul Weiss partner Roberto Gonzalez, a former Treasury Department deputy general counsel in the Barack Obama administration.

Meanwhile Tencent’s Palo Alto-based US subsidiary, Tencent USA, has hired New York lawyer Toby Myerson, Foreign Lobby Report first reported Friday. Myerson will provide “strategy and legal advice” regarding Trump’s order. Myerson worked at Paul Weiss for 35 years and was co-head of the firm’s Global Mergers and Acquisitions Group.

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More than a billion people around the world use the multi-purpose WeChat app for everything from messaging to consuming news to paying bills. In a pair of Aug. 6 executive orders, Trump determined that WeChat and video-sharing app TikTok posed a threat to the US security and economy and accused the apps of capturing user data and censoring content opposed by the Communist Party of China.

Trump’s order leaves it up to the US Commerce Department to determine whether US “transactions” with Tencent include individual payments by WeChat users. That could harm Tencent’s lucrative video gaming operations, the largest in the world by revenue.

With US-China tensions rising, Tencent-owned video game company Riot Games of Los Angeles hired Washington firm Platinum Advisors in February to lobby on data privacy and intellectual property issues. The esports promoter and maker of the wildly popular League of Legends game paid the firm $90,000 in the first half of the year to lobby Congress.