Tensions are mounting, as Apple is the latest company to buckle under China’s pressure after the Blizzard fiasco that took social media by storm, the NBA debacle and other incidents.
Breaking news from Reuters reveals why the company withdrew a map app used by Hong Kong protesters from the App Store, telling its developers that “your app has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong”.
The app in question, HKmap.live, had already been rejected from the App Store earlier this month.
As we reported then, the HKmap app tracked police activities on the streets of Hong Kong. On October 1, police used live bullets for the first time, as well as tear gas and hydrants, and a public official attacked an 18-year-old who was injured.
Then, after the press picked up on Apple’s deletion of the app, HKmap was back in the Apple Store.
This prompted the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, to publish a highly critical article about Apple.
“Foreign companies probably don’t understand the sentiments and way of thinking of Chinese people. Our ancestors had been bullied.
But today we are united more than ever.
On issues involving principles, we have zero tolerance for wrongdoings. Providing a gateway for “toxic apps” is hurting the feelings of the Chinese people, twisting the facts of Hong Kong affairs, and against the views and principles of the Chinese people.”
Immediately after, Apple buckled and removed HKmap.live once more, issuing this statement:
“We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place to discover apps.
We have learned that an app, HKmap.live, has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong.
Many concerned customers in Hong Kong have contacted us about this app and we immediately began investigating it.
The app displays police locations and 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.
This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store.”
The app’s developers counter the ban saying that “there is 0 evidence to support CSTCB’s accusatio and say that “HKmap App never solicits, promotes, or encourages criminal activity. HKmap App consolidates information from user and public sources, e.g. live news stream, Facebook and Telegram.”
This isn’t the only action from Apple that sparked outrage.
The Verge also reports that, alongside HKmap.live, Apple also removed from the Chinese App Store the Quartz news app, a publication that provided extensive coverage of the Hong Kong protests.
This is just the latest incident involving a US organization or company distancing themselves from Hong Kong after pressure from China.
Another report reveals that, after just three days in the Google Play Store, Google removed a role-playing game because players in a choice-based story were put in the shoes of a Hong Kong protester.
Two days ago, Blizzard banned a Hearthstone player during a tournament and denied his prize money after he mentioned his support of Hong Kong, drawing the ire of the Internet.
Notable moments include the movement of thousands of users who tried to close their Blizzard subscriptions but were asked to provide copies of their identity cards, a US marine burning his games in protest, dozens of Blizzard employees walking out and a public condemnation from two US senators.
Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party. No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck. https://t.co/rJBeXUiwYS— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) October 8, 2019
Then, there is the NBA controversy from last week, when Daryl Morey of the Houston Rockets took to Twitter to post support for Hong Kong protesters, was forced to delete it and Tencent decided to not broadcast the team’s games as punishment, even though the NBA issued a dramatic apology.
Multiple US political leaders condemn these recent events and China’s pressure but, with this pattern established, it’s hard to tell if the criticism will have any impact.
Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in #China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions. China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally. Implications of this will be felt long after everyone in U.S. politics today is gone. https://t.co/Cx3tkWc7r6— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 8, 2019
Not even TikTok avoided the influence of the Chinese leadership, with the largest social media platform in the region having absolutely no mention of the Hong Kong protests.
Meanwhile, the creators of South Park don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.