Growth capital investor Kennet raises $250M fund, backed by Edmond de Rothschild

Venture capital is “not the only fruit” for entrepreneurs, as the often quieter ‘Growth Capital’ can also see great returns for entrepreneurs who prefer to retain a lot of ownership and control but are also willing to bootstrap over a longer period in order to reach revenues and profits. With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing millions of people online, tech investors of all classes are now reaping the dividends in this accelerated, Coronavirus-powered transition to digital.

Thus it is that Kennet Partners, a leading European technology growth equity investor, has raised $250m (€223m) for its fifth fund, ‘Kennet V’, in partnership with Edmond de Rothschild Private Equity, the Private Equity division of the Edmond de Rothschild Group.

Kennet is perhaps best know for its involvement in companies such as Receipt Bank, Spatial Networks and its exist from Vlocity, IntelePeer, and MedeAnalytics. It’s also invested in Eloomi, Codility, Nuxeo and Rimilia. In raising this new fund, Kennet says it exceeded its target and secured new investors from across Europe and Asia.

The Kennet V fund has already started to deploy the capital into new investments in B2B, SaaS across the UK, Europe and the US.

Typically, Kennet invests in the first external funding that companies receive and is used to finance sales and marketing expansion, particularly internationally. It’s cumulative assets managed are approximately $1 billion.

Hillel Zidel, managing director, Kennet Partners, told me by phone that: “We were fortunate in that most of the capital was raised just before Covid hit. But we were still able to bring additional investors in. Had we been designing a fund for now, then this would have been it, because people have rushed towards technology out of necessity. So this has brought forward digitization but at least five years.”

Johnny El-Hachem, CEO, Edmond de Rothschild Private Equity said in a statement: “We partnered with Kennet, because we liked the dynamism of the team coupled with their strategy of financing businesses providing mission-critical technology solutions. The COVID crisis has underscored the importance of many of these tools to business continuity.”

Meet BukuWarung, the bookkeeping app built for Indonesia’s 60 million “micro-merchants”

In Indonesia, there are about 60 million “micro-merchants,” typically small store owners who sell food and other staple items, and have close relationships with their customers. Many often extend informal lines of credit to shoppers, but much of their financial tracking is still done with pen and paper ledgers. Chinmay Chauhan and Abhinay Peddisetty, the co-founders of BukuWarung, want to digitize the process with a financial platform designed especially for small Indonesian businesses. Their goal is to start with bookkeeping tools, before expanding into services including access to working capital.

The startup is currently taking part in Y Combinator’s startup accelerator program. BukuWarung has also raised seed funding from East Ventures, AC Ventures, Golden Gate Ventures, Tanglin Ventures, Samporna, as well as strategic angel investors from Grab, Gojek, Flipkart, PayPal, Xendit, Rapyd, Alterra, ZEN Rooms and other companies.

Chauhan and Peddisetty met while working together at Singapore-based peer-to-peer marketplace Carousell, where they focused on developing monetization products for sellers. Chauhan also worked on products for merchants at Grab, the largest ride-sharing and on-demand delivery company in Southeast Asia. But the inspiration behind BukuWarung is also personal, because both Chauhan and Peddisetty’s families run small neighborhood stores.

“We can look at this more deeply given the experience we have monetizing merchants at Grab and Carousell,” Chauhan said. “We also know good potential exists in Indonesia, where we can help 60 million micro-merchants come online and digitize. From a macro-level, we felt this would be a huge opportunity, and there is also the personal element of being potentially being able to impact millions of merchants.”

Paper records not only make tracking finances a labor-intensive process, but also means it is harder for merchants to gain access to lines of credit. Chauhan and Peddisetty told TechCrunch that their goal is to expand the company to financial services as well, doing for Indonesian merchants what KhataBook and OKCredit have done in India. Since launching last year, BukuWarung has signed up 600,000 merchants across 750 cities and towns in Indonesia and currently has about 200,000 monthly average users. The founders say their goal is to reach all 60 million micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses in Indonesia. It has already made its first acquisition: Lunasbos, one of the first Indonesian credit tracking apps.

BukuWarung founders Chinmay Chauhan and Abhinay Peddisetty

While preparing to launch BukuWarung, the founders traveled through Indonesia, speaking to almost 400 merchants about their challenges with bookkeeping, credit tracing and accounting. Based on those conversations, the two decided to start by focusing on a bookkeeping app, which launched 10 months ago.

Despite a partial lockdown in Indonesia from April to June, BukuWarung continued to grow because most of its users sell daily necessities, like groceries. In smaller cities and villages, merchants often offer credit lines because their customers’ cash flow is very tight, and many do not have a regular monthly paycheck, Chauhan said. “Everyone is buying and selling on credit, that is something we validated in our research.”

Then there is the community aspect, where many merchants are close to their customers.

“This changes depending on the location of the business, but business owners have often known a lot of people in their neighborhoods for a long time, and when it comes to credit, they typically offer 500 Indonesian rupiah all the way up to about one million rupiah [about USD $70.56],” Chauhan said. But when it’s time to settle bills, which often means going to customers’ homes and asking for payment, many merchants feel hesitant, he added.

“They will never chase or call the person. The app we built sends automatic reminders to customers, and this ‘soft message’ really helps merchants not feel shy while at the same time professionally giving customer reminders.”

While talking to merchants, BukuWarung’s founders also realized that many were using pay-as-you-go data plans and lower-end smartphones. Therefore, their app needed to be as lightweight as possible, and work offline so users could access and update their records anytime. This focus on making their app take up as little data and space as possible differentiates them from other bookkeeping apps, the founders said, and helps them sign up and retain users in Indonesia.

Chauhan and Peddisetty said the company will partner with financial tech companies as it grows  to give users access to online payment systems, including digital wallets, and financing.

In a statement to TechCrunch, Y Combinator partner Gustaf Alströmer said, “Building digital infrastructure for emerging economies is a huge opportunity, especially in the post-COVID world. And we believe BukuWarung is a team that can take on this challenge. We have seen this journey before with Khatabook and OkCredit in India and see that BukuWarung is on a similar growth trajectory to empower micro-businesses in Indonesia.”

 

Zetwerk, an Indian B2B marketplace for manufacturing items, raises $21 million

Zetwerk, an Indian business-to-business marketplace for manufacturing items, has raised $21 million in a new financing round as it looks to scale its operations in the nation and help local businesses find customers overseas.

San Francisco-based investment firm Greenoaks led the two-year-old Indian startup’s Series C financing round. Existing investors Accel, Kae Capital, Lightspeed and Sequoia Capital India also participated in the round, which brings Zetwerk’s to-date raise to $62 million.

Founded by Amrit Acharya, Srinath Ramakkrushnan, Rahul Sharma and Vishal Chaudhary in 2018, Zetwerk connects OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and EPC (engineering procurement construction) customers with manufacturing small-businesses and enterprises.

Unlike the more typical e-commerce firms, Zetwerk sells goods such as parts of a crane, doors, chassis of different machines and ladders. The startup operates to serve customers in fabrication, machining, casting and forging businesses.

These are all custom-made products. “Nobody has a stock of such inventories. You get the order, you find manufacturers and workshops that make them. Our customers are companies that are in the business of building infrastructure,” said Acharya, who serves as Zetwerk’s chief executive.

“We index these small workshops and understand the kinds of products they have built before. These indexes help bigger companies discover and work with them,” he added. Once a firm has placed an order, Zetwerk allows them to track the progress of manufacturing and then its shipping. In this line of business, this “hand-holding” is crucial as manufacturing and shipping of these items typically take more than two to three months.

Currently, Zetwerk works with more than 150 enterprises and 2,500 small and medium-sized businesses, it told TechCrunch. The startup delivers more than 30,000 parts each month, up 100% since December last year, and has enabled several manufacturers in India to discover clients overseas.

“Zetwerk is bringing Indian manufacturing to the global stage, and I’m proud to be part of their story,” said Prayank Swaroop of Accel.

Zetwerk has developed “unique software to enable an enormous global manufacturing marketplace connecting OEMs and EPCs with industrial suppliers,” said Neil Shah of Greenoaks Capital.

“Increasingly, companies are looking to diversify their supply chain globally and Zetwerk’s platform allows them to identify and collaborate with supplier partners to deliver projects on-time and with high quality. We are thrilled to continue to partner with the Zetwerk team,” he said.

Manufacturing contributes to 14% of India’s GDP, but the nation lacks a supporting ecosystem to execute projects more efficiently, said Acharya. The startup will deploy the fresh capital to fund its international expansion and launch new categories, he said.

Commenting on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted Zetwerk, Acharya told TechCrunch that the startup works across multiple industries, some of which are still growing. “Overall, we are doing well,” he said.

Apple and Google block dozens of Chinese apps in India

Two days after India blocked 59 apps developed by Chinese firms, Google and Apple have started to comply with New Delhi’s order and are preventing users in the world’s second largest internet market from accessing those apps.

UC Browser, Shareit, and Club Factory and other apps that India has blocked are no longer listed on Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store. In a statement, a Google spokesperson said that the company had “temporarily blocked access to the apps”on Google Play Store as it reviews New Delhi’s interim order.

Apple, which has taken a similar approach as Google in complying with New Delhi’s order, did not respond to a request for comment. Some developers including ByteDance have voluntarily made their apps inaccessible in India, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. India’s Department of Telecommunications has also ordered telecom networks and other internet service providers to block access to those 59 apps.

Thursday’s move from Apple and Google, whose software power nearly every smartphone on the planet, is the latest escalation in an unprecedented tension in recent times between  China and India.

A skirmish between the two neighbouring nations at a disputed Himalayan border site last month left 20 Indian soldiers dead, stoking historical tension between them. Earlier this week, India ordered to block 59 Chinese apps including ByteDance’s TikTok citing national security concerns.

The Indian government has invited executives at these companies to give them an opportunity to answer their concerns. Kevin Mayer, the chief executive of TikTok, said on Wednesday that his app was in compliance with Indian privacy and security requirements and he was looking forward to meeting with various stakeholders.

On Thursday, Chinese social network Weibo said it had deleted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s account at the request of the Indian embassy. Modi had amassed about 200,000 followers on Weibo before his account was deleted.

India has emerged as the biggest open playground for Silicon Valley and Chinese firms in recent years. Like American technology groups Google, Facebook, and Amazon, several Chinese firms including Tencent, ByteDance, and Alibaba Group also aggressively expanded their presence in India in the last decade. TikTok, which has 200 million users in India, counts Asia’s third largest economy as its biggest overseas market.

The 59 blocked apps that include Likee, Xiaomi’s Mi Community, and Tencent’s WeChat, had a combined monthly active user base of over 500 million users in India last month, according to mobile insights firm App Annie — data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. (A significant number of smartphone users in India use several of these apps so there’s a lot of overlap.)

More to follow…

TikTok is engaging with India over ban and already complies with local privacy and security requirements, CEO says

Kevin Mayer, the chief executive of TikTok said on Wednesday that the popular short-form video app complies with “all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law,” two days after New Delhi banned 59 apps including Mayer’s citing security concerns.

Addressing TikTok’s 2000 employees in India on Wednesday, Mayer said ByteDance, the parent firm of the Chinese app, would do “everything in our power to restore the positive experiences and opportunities that they can be proud of.”

With more than 200 million of its users in India, TikTok counts Asia’s third-largest economy as its biggest overseas market.

New Delhi announced late Monday that it was blocking 59 apps that have been developed by Chinese firms. Among the apps that have been blocked include Tencent’s WeChat, and Alibaba Group’s UC Browser and UC News. An Alibaba Group spokesperson in India did not respond to a request for comment.

The Indian government alleged that these apps were “compiling, mining and profiling” users’ data that posed threats to “national security and defence of India.”

In his address today, which TikTok later published on its blog, Mayer said that his firm “places highest importance on user privacy and integrity.” TikTok was working with various stakeholders in India to address their concerns, he said.

Mayer’s address to his employees comes a day after TikTok pulled its app from Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store in India and revoked existing users in the world’s second largest internet market from accessing its service. Visiting TikTok app or mobile website in India currently returns an error that states TikTok is in the process of complying with New Delhi’s order.

“Today, it is a staple and reality for TikTok users even in remote cities, towns and villages across the country. Empowered individual creators have become the most sought-after for digital marketing campaigns. Small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs have been able to realise their growth ambitions and dreams by reaching out to thousands of potential customers and consumers on a daily basis, through the platform,” said Mayer.

It remains unclear at this point when — and if — India would reverse its ban on TikTok and other apps. TikTok, the most popular app among the 59 apps blocked by India, has been particularly hit by New Delhi’s order.

Google and Apple said Tuesday that the Indian government had asked them to only pull the TikTok app from their stores and that TikTok had voluntarily delisted its app from the nation.

Other apps remain available on Google Play Store and App Store at the time of writing. Though India’s Department of Telecommunications has since ordered Vodafone, Airtel, and Reliance Jio to block access to all the banned apps on their networks with “immediate effect.”

TikTok has been facing backlash in India for several weeks as an anti-China sentiment gains pace in the nation. A skirmish between the two neighboring nations at a disputed Himalayan border site that left 20 Indian soldiers dead last month further escalated that tension.

In May, several users unearthed and shared numerous recent TikTok videos on Twitter that appeared to promote domestic violence, animal cruelty, racism, child abuse and objectification of women. This prompted many in India to leave a poor rating of the TikTok app in the Google Play Store to express their disgust.

“Our partnership efforts with credible national and global organisations such as UN Women, United Nations Development Programme, UNICEF, and CRY have raised awareness and advocated for concerted action to end gender-based, domestic violence and child marriage,” Mayer said today.

After grinding investigation, Luckin Coffee confirms $300 million revenue fraud

Luckin Coffee’s drips and drops of news the past few weeks — including a boardroom feud that is pitting the company’s chairman against a special investigation committee looking into an alleged massive fraud — is now turning into a flood.

In a new SEC filing this morning, the company’s Special Committee, which was tasked with investigating claims that the one-time China-based coffee darling overstated its revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars, has returned with its verdict. And the verdict is that the company did indeed inflate revenues by nearly $300 million.

In its filing, the company said “In the course of the Internal Investigation, the Special Committee and its advisors reviewed over 550,000 documents collected from over 60 custodians, interviewed over 60 witnesses, and performed extensive forensic accounting and data analytics testing.”

What it found is that starting around April 2019, or roughly contemporaneous with the IPO of the company on Nasdaq, the company began inflating revenues. According to the company’s analysis, revenues were overstated by $35 million in Q2, $99 million in Q3, and almost $166 million in Q4, in present day U.S. dollars.

The fraud was first discovered by unknown private investigators in a report that was later circulated online by the short-seller Muddy Waters in January of this year. That short-seller report eventually led the company to begin an investigation roughly three months ago, which led to today’s conclusions.

The filing further stated that “Following the Special Committee’s recommendations, the Board terminated its former Chief Executive Officer and former Chief Operating Officer based on evidence demonstrating their participation in the fabricated transactions.” That news was released a few weeks ago.

Now, this is where things get interesting because this week, the boardroom feud is spilling out into the open. There are competing proposals on who will run Luckin going forward, with the chairman of the board attempting to fire the board’s Special Committee, while the rest of the board is trying to fire the chairman. Yes, it’s complicated, but the vote is happening this week, with the firing of the chairman for July 2, and the firing of the rest of the board in a shareholders meeting on July 5.

We’ll be following those developments closely, but I will say this: whoever read 550,000 pages of evidence in roughly three months deserves … at least $300 million in Luckin Coffee free coupons. I’d even say it’s grounds for a permanent and free coffee subscription. Let’s just hope the board spills even more beans on what is going on here. (Okay, I am going to stop now).

Beyond Burger arrives in Alibaba’s grocery stores in China

Beyond Meat is starting to hit supermarket shelves in China after it first entered the country in April by supplying Starbucks’ plant-based menu. Within weeks, it had also forayed into select KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut outlets — all under the Yum China empire.

China, the world’s biggest market for meat consumption, has seen a growing demand for plant-based protein. Euromonitor predicted that the country’s “free from meat” market, including plant-based meat substitutes, would be worth almost $12 billion by 2023, up from just under $10 billion in 2018.

The Nasdaq-listed food giant is now bringing its signature Beyond Burgers into Freshippo (“Hema” in Chinese), Alibaba’s supermarket chain with a 30-minute delivery service that recorded a spike in orders during the pandemic as people avoided in-person shopping.

The tie-up will potentially promote the animal-free burgers to customers of Freshippo’s more than 200 stores across China’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. They will first be available in 50 stores in Shanghai and arrive in more locations in September.

“We know that retail will be a critical part of our success in China, and we’re pleased to mark this early milestone within a few months of our market entry,” Ethan Brown, founder and chief executive officer of Beyond Meat, said in a statement.

Plant-based meat has a long history in China, serving the country’s Buddhist communities before the diet emerged as a broader urban lifestyle in more recent times. Amid health concerns, the Chinese government told citizens to cut back on meat consumption in 2016. The middle-class urban dwellers have also been embracing fake meat products as they respond to climate change.

“Regardless of international or local brands, Chinese consumers are now only seeing the first generation of plant-based offerings. Purchases today are mostly limited to forward-thinking experimenters,” Matilda Ho, founder and managing director of Bits x Bites, a venture capital firm targeting the Chinese food-tech industry, told TechCrunch. “The good news is China’s per capita consumption of plant-based protein is amongst the highest in the world.”

“For these offerings to scale to mass consumers or attract repeat purchases from early adopters, there is tremendous opportunity to improve on the mouthfeel, flavor, and how these products fit into the Chinese palate. To appeal to health-conscious flexitarians or vegetarians, there is also plenty of room to improve the nutritional profile in comparison to the conventional tofu or Buddhist mimic meat,” Ho added.

The fake meat market is already rife with competition. Domestic incumbent Qishan Foods has been around since 1993. Hong Kong’s OmniPork and Alpha Foods were quick to capture the new appetite across the border. Nascent startup Zhenmeat is actively seeking funding and touting its understanding of the “Chinese taste.”

Meanwhile, Beyond Meat’s rival back home Impossible Foods may be having a harder time cracking the market, as its genetically-modified soy ingredient could cause concerns among health-conscious Chinese.

Facebook launches Avatars, its Bitmoji competitor, in India

Facebook Avatars, which lets users customize a virtual lookalike of themselves for use as stickers in chat and comments, is now available in India, the social juggernaut’s biggest market by users account.

The American firm said Tuesday it had launched Avatars to India as more social interaction moves online amid a nationwide lockdown in the world’s second largest internet market. The company said Avatars supports a variety of faces, hairstyles, outfits that are customized for users in India.

Avatars’ launch comes to India at the height of a backlash against Chinese apps in the country — some of which have posed serious competition to Facebook’s ever-growing tentacles in Asia’s third-largest economy. On Monday evening, New Delhi ordered to ban TikTok and nearly 60 other apps developed by Chinese firms.

The social giant’s Avatars, a clone of Snapchat’s popular Bitmoji, was first unveiled last year. The feature, which Facebook sees as an expression tool, aims at turning engagements on the social service fun, youthful, visually communicative, and “more light-hearted.”

Users can create their avatar from the sticker tray in the comment section of a News Feed post or in Messenger. Facebook has expanded Avatars, initially available to users in Australia and New Zealand, to Europe and the U.S. in recent weeks.

Scores of companies including Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi have attempted to replicate Bitmoji in recent years — though no one has expanded it like Snapchat.

Earlier this year, Snapchat introduced Bitmoji TV, a series of 4-minute comedy cartoons with users’ avatars. At the time, Snapchat said that about 70% of its daily active users, or 147 million of its 210 million users, had created their own Bitmojis.

Snapchat is preparing to launch the Spectacles, its AR glasses, in India. The California-headquartered firm has so far struggled to gain ground in India, where it had about 30 million monthly active users last month, according to mobile insights firm App Annie, data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. Facebook has amassed over 350 million users in India and its instant messaging service WhatsApp has more than 400 million users in the country.

Indian ride-hailing giant Ola adds tipping option to its app globally

You can now tip your Ola driver. The Indian ride-hailing giant said on Tuesday that it has rolled out this feature to its users in India, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom — all the nations where it currently operates.

Ola said riders in each market will see a range of denominations they can pick as the amount they wish to tip digitally. It plans to allow riders to pay a custom amount of their choice in a few weeks, a spokesperson told TechCrunch.

All of Ola’s 2.5 million driver partners globally — from those who operate two-wheelers to four — can receive tips, the nine-year-old ride-hailing giant said.

The addition of this feature comes as Ola looks to broaden its efforts to help its driver partners who have been financially hit in recent weeks after New Delhi and several other governments across the globe enforced a lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Uber first introduced the tipping feature in some states in the U.S. in 2017 and has since expanded to it many more states and nations. It rolled out the tipping feature to its users in India early this year.

Driver partners on both the platforms have long expressed the need for a tipping feature to supplement their incomes after both the companies gradually reduced the incentives they had bandied out in the early years.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our driver-partners have worked tirelessly to enable essential travel for all those in need, despite facing their own challenges. As services resume, they continue to personally invest in ensuring the safety of their customers and deliver a comfortable ride experience,” said Anand Subramanian, a spokesperson at Ola.

“Linking rewards to higher-quality services, we invite our customers to join us in sharing our appreciation and supporting them during these trying times. Not only will the new functionality provide an opportunity for drivers to increase their earnings but will also showcase how a small gesture of solidarity and support from customers will drive our driver-partner community to go a long way,” he said.

In recent months, Ola has announced a range of relief packages including exempting lease rental to assist its driver partners. It has also committed to provide driver partners with a few hundred dollars if they or their family members test positive for Covid-19. Uber has yet to offer any significant aid to its driver partners in India.

Like their driver partners, both Ola and Uber have been hit with the global pandemic as well. Ola said last month it was cutting 1,400 jobs, or 35% of its workforce in India. Days later, Uber said it was eliminating 600 jobs, or 25% of its local workforce, in the nation. India is a key overseas market for Uber.

Indian food delivery startups Swiggy and Zomato have also introduced tipping option in their apps in recent months.

U.S. suspends export of sensitive tech to Hong Kong as China passes new national security law

The United States government began measures today to end its special status with Hong Kong, one month after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told Congress that Hong Kong should no longer be considered autonomous from China. These include suspending export license exceptions for sensitive U.S. technology and ending the export of defense equipment to Hong Kong. Both the Commerce and State Departments also said further restrictions are being evaluated.

The U.S. government’s announcements were made a few hours before news broke that China had passed a new national security law that will give it greater control over Hong Kong. It is expected to take effect on July 1, according to the South China Morning Post.

The term “special status” refers to arrangements that recognized the difference between Hong Kong and mainland China under the “one country, two systems” policy put into place when the United Kingdom handed control of Hong Kong back to Beijing in 1997. These included different export controls, immigration policies and lower tariffs. But that preferential treatment was put into jeopardy after China proposed the new national security law, which many Hong Kong residents fear will end the region’s judicial independence from Beijing.

The U.S Commerce Department and State Department issued separate statements today detailing the new restrictions on Hong Kong. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said the Commerce Department will suspend export license exceptions for sensitive U.S. technology, and that “further actions to eliminate differential treatment are also being evaluated.”

The State Department said that it will end exports of U.S. defense equipment and also “take steps toward imposing the same restrictions on U.S. defense and dual-use technologies to Hong Kong as it does for China.”

In a statement to Reuters, Kurt Tong, a former U.S. consul general in Hong Kong, said that the U.S. government’s decisions today would not impact a large amount of trade between the U.S. and Hong Kong because the territory is not a major manufacturing center and its economy is mostly services.

According to figures from the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Hong Kong accounted for 2.2% of overall U.S. exports in 2018, totaling $37.3 billion, with the top export categories being electrical machinery, precious metal and stones, art and antiques, and beef. But the new restrictions could make more difficult for U.S. semiconductor and other technology companies to do business with Hong Kong clients.

Other restrictions proposed by the United States including ending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

Both the State and Commerce departments said that the restrictions were put into place for national security reasons. “We can no longer distinguish between the export of controlled items to Hong Kong or to mainland China,” Pompeo wrote. “We cannot risk these items falling into the hands of the People’s Liberation Army, whose primary purpose is to uphold the dictatorship of the CCP by any means necessary.”

In his statement, Ross said, “With the Chinese Communist Party’s imposition of new security measures on Hong Kong, the risk that sensitive U.S. technology will be diverted to the People’s Liberation Army or Ministry of State Security has increased, all while undermining the territory’s autonomy.”