Apple Pulls Hong Kong App Amid Chinese Regime’s Pressure

By Eva Fu

Apple removed an app that provides real-time updates about police and protester movements from its App Store on Oct. 10, joining the latest of international brands bowing to the Chinese regime’s pressure.

The dynamic, crowd-sourced app HKmap.live has become popular for helping people to navigate through the tear gas-filled streets in Hong Kong, a former British colony where pro-democracy protests have erupted since June against Beijing’s creeping interference. The emojis and spontaneous updates proved handy for users to track road conditions, such as train closures and potential clashes.

A display of the app “HKmap.live”
A display of the app “HKmap.live” designed by an outside supplier and available on Apple Inc.’s online store is seen in Hong Kong, on Oct. 9, 2019. (Vincent Yu/AP)

Apple said in a statement that the app has posed “serious harm” to law enforcement and local residents.

“We have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” it said.

Apple did not respond to an inquiry from the publication as of press time.

The move came one day after Chinese state media berated the tech giant for aiding Hong Kong protesters by approving the “toxic” app and warned that the company’s business in China is on the line. The app, which is also on Google Play, had just went live on the iphone shelf less than a week ago after Apple’s rejection earlier this month.

Responding to the app removal, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson in an Oct. 10 press conference again described the Hong Kong movement as “extremist” and “criminal activities.”

HKmap.live said that it disagrees with the claims that the app is a public safety threat and said there was zero evidence backing up the Hong Kong authorities’ allegations.

“The majority of user review[s] in App Store … suggest HKmap IMPROVED public safety, not the opposite,” it said.

It added that Apple’s rejection of the app is “clearly a political decision to suppress freedom and human right in HongKong.”

“HKmap is used by [sic] passerby, protesters, journalist, tourist, and even pro-government supporters … If HKmap is for target and ambush police or other illegal purpose as falsely accused, why would I bother making it available to the public?”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) criticized Apple’s decision, saying that they had just assured him last week that “their initial decision to ban this app was a mistake.”

“Looks like the Chinese censors have had a word with them since. Who is really running Apple? Tim Cook or Beijing?” he said on Oct. 10.

Chinese officials and state media have consistently framed the unrelenting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as “riots” and scorned foreign companies that go against the Party line for “hurting Chinese feelings.”

HKmap.live expressed disappointment to see “U.S. corps such as Apple, NBA, Blizzard Entertainment, and Tiffany & Co. act against freedom.”

Aside from Apple, the other named companies had also come under fire lately for provoking the Chinese regime’s sensitivity in relation to the Hong Kong issue.

A display of the app “HKmap.live”
A display of the app “HKmap.live” designed by an outside supplier and available on Apple Inc.’s online store is seen in Hong Kong, on Oct. 9, 2019. (Vincent Yu/AP)

Apple had recently removed a Quartz news app from its Chinese mobile app store due to Chinese government complaints that it “includes content that is illegal in China,” according to The Verge. The news organization told The Verge that they “abhor this kind of government censorship of the internet.”

Google also suspended a role-playing app on Oct. 10 for violating a company policy “prohibiting developers from capitalizing on sensitive events, such as attempting to make money from serious ongoing conflicts or tragedies through a game.” The app, titled “The Revolution of Our Times,” allows users to role-play as Hong Kong protesters.

Greater China is Apple’s third largest market in terms of revenue, generating $52 billion—about a fifth of the company’s total sales—over the last year. It is also where Apple manufactures most of its products, including iPhones and iPads.

In the Oct. 10 press conference, the foreign ministry spokesperson also said that they welcome foreign businesses to invest in China, “but the precondition is that they comply with Chinese laws and regulations and respect Chinese people’s national feelings. There is no doubt about that.”

From The Epoch Times