Tencent Implores Court to Compel Arbitration in WeChat Data Harvesting Case

A reply brief filed on Wednesday by Tencent America LLC and Tencent International Service Pte. Ltd. (together, Tencent) reiterated arguments as to why WeChat users should be forced to arbitrate their data privacy claims in Hong Kong. 

The case is currently proceeding as a Santa Clara County Superior Court class action, wherein users of the Chinese-language communication platform argue that WeChat illegally collected and sent their private data to the Chinese government. 

The parties are battling out the second arbitration dispute in the case, as previously, the court denied Tencent’s request to have the case heard by a domestic arbitration tribunal.

In their opposition filed in late November, the plaintiffs claimed that shunting the case to Hong Kong for arbitration would be unfair, violating federal public policy and depriving them of due process. They argued that because the People’s Republic of China essentially puppeteers Hong Kong, and their allegations against WeChat implicate the Chinese government negatively, there was no way they would receive a fair arbitration.

In this week’s reply brief, WeChat rebutted those arguments, principally contending that the plaintiffs agreed to arbitrate their claims in Hong Kong. As for constitutional unfairness, Tencent argued that the plaintiffs presented no evidence to support their claims. “Their arguments rest instead on pure speculation, and almost exclusively address aspects of the Hong Kong government, not the HKIAC itself,” the reply said.

In addition, Tencent asserted that the plaintiffs’ public policy apprehension did not excuse them from arbitration. “While Plaintiffs may support their claims by invoking public policy concerns, that does not create a loophole that excuses Plaintiffs from complying with the valid and binding arbitration agreements they admittedly accepted,” the brief explained.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for January 12.

The plaintiffs are represented by North River Law PLLC, Schonbrun Seplow Harris Hoffman & Zeldes LLP, and The Lanier Firm P.C. Tencent is represented by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.