Washington, Sept 21– A U.S. judge early Sunday blocked the U.S. Commerce Department from requiring Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google to remove Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat for downloads by late Sunday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco said in an order that WeChat users who filed a lawsuit “have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim, the balance of hardships tips in the plaintiffs’ favor,” Reuters reported.

On Friday, the U.S. Commerce Department issued an order citing national security grounds to block the app from U.S. app stores owned by Tencent Holdings.

The U.S. Commerce Department did not immediately comment.

WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than a billion users.

The WeChat Users Alliance praised the ruling as “an important and hard-fought victory” for “millions of WeChat users in the U.S.”

China’s Ministry of Commerce said Saturday it is resolutely opposed to the U.S. move to block downloads of WeChat and TikTok apps.

In the absence of any evidence, the U.S. has repeatedly used state power to suppress the two enterprises for unwarranted reasons, which seriously disrupted their normal business activities, undermined the confidence of international investors in the U.S. investment environment and damaged the normal global economic and trade order, the ministry said in an online statement.


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