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Topline: Apple has banned an app that used crowd-sourced reports to track the movements of Hong Kong police after facing criticism from People’s Daily, a proxy for China’s communist government.
- Apple claimed that the HKmap.live app, which was used by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters and residents to track police, was being “used in ways that endanger residents and law enforcement in Hong Kong” and that the app “violates our local guidelines and laws,” they said in a statement. The app, which was approved last week, was removed on Wednesday.
- The company added that it had confirmed with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau (CSTCB) that the app was used to “target and ambush police” and “threaten public safety.”
- But a twitter account linked to HKmap.live denied this, saying there is “[Zero] evidence to support CSTCB’s accusation.”
- On Wednesday, China’s state-run newspaper, People’s Daily, slammed Apple for approving the app, which it said had “ill intentions,” and wrote that Apple’s approval of the app “obviously helps rioters.” “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,” the article added.
- The paper also took aim at Apple Music’s Hong Kong store, which it said contained a song advocating for “Hong Kong independence.”
Key background: China accounts for a third of Apple’s revenues, and huge factories operated by firms like Foxconn in China sit at the heart of the Cupertino, California-based tech giant’s supply chain for iPhones, Macbooks and AirPods.
Apple isn’t the only company struggling to navigate China’s new rules. The NBA is facing the commercial and political fallout after the Houston Rockets’ general manager, Daryl Morey, tweeted in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. Blizzard is facing a backlash from the gaming industry and fans outside China after moving quickly to suspend an esports player who shouted pro-Hong Hong slogans, while Comedy Central’s South Park was scrubbed from China’s streaming sites for an episode critical of government censorship.
China’s government has been increasingly assertive in recent years, threatening multinationals firms with being cut off from its huge domestic market to force them to follow its line on sensitive topics like Tibet, Taiwan and the Tiananmen Square massacre. Now Hong Kong and the months-long protests calling for political and police reform in the territory have become a new red line for Beijing.
Tangent: Apple also removed the Quartz news app from its Chinese store, reportedly over complaints from China’s government over the publication’s coverage of the Hong Kong protests.
I am a breaking news reporter for Forbes in London, covering Europe and the U.S. Previously I was a news reporter for HuffPost UK, the Press Association and a night rep