Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has announced plans to assemble an investor consortium aimed at acquiring TikTok, he disclosed to CNBC on Thursday. Mnuchin’s declaration follows closely on the heels of the U.S. House of Representatives passing a bill that mandates Chinese-owned ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, to divest its U.S. operations within approximately six months or face prohibition.

In response to the bill, TikTok characterised it as a “ban” and urged senators to consider the views of their constituents before implementing any measures. “I think the legislation should pass and I think it should be sold,” expressed Mnuchin during his appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday. “It’s a great business and I’m going to put together a group to buy TikTok,” he affirmed.

TikTok’s owners have repeatedly rejected claims that the app poses any threat to the US national security. TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, asserted on Wednesday that the company intends to exercise its legal rights to challenge any potential ban. This development underscores the intensifying efforts by various stakeholders to address concerns over TikTok’s ownership and potential security risks associated with its Chinese ties.

Earlier, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin criticised the US for “suppressing TikTok” without finding any evidence of national security threats. Wang warned that such actions could damage international investor confidence and disrupt normal business activities, ultimately harming the United States itself.

Chinese media also lambasted the US effort, with newspapers featuring satirical cartoons ridiculing what they called “ugly behaviour” and the abuse of the concept of national security to seize the app “by force.”