Prominent Hong Kong legislator and IT entrepreneur Charles Mok has warned that Apple risks becoming an accomplice for “censorship and oppression” in China.
In an open letter to Tim Cook, Mok referenced Apple’s removal of a recent app which allowed protesters to track the whereabouts of Hong Kong police. Tim Cook has defended the app’s removal, which came after Chinese state media criticized Apple for allowing it in the App Store.
Mok’s letter defends the HKmap.live app. He claims that it is there to help, “citizens avoid areas where pedestrians not involved in any criminal activities might be subjected to police brutality.” He also notes that there have been, “numerous cases of innocent passerby [sic] in the neighborhood injured by the Hong Kong Police Force’s excessive force in crowd dispersal situations.”
Today I wrote to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, to tell him his company’s decision to remove HKmap live app from Appstore will cause problems for normal Hong Kong’s citizens trying to avoid police presence while they are under constant fear ofpolice brutality. Values over profits, pls! pic.twitter.com/guaBfV8Pnf
— Charles Mok 莫乃光 (@charlesmok) October 10, 2019
Elsewhere, he notes that, “We Hongkongers will definitely look closely at whether Apple chooses to uphold its commitment to free expression and other basic human rights, or become an accomplice for Chinese censorship and oppression.”
Hong Kong: Big trouble in China
Apple banned, then re-approved, then finally banned the app again. Its last ban followed pressure from Chinese state media. “Apple has to think about the consequences of its unwise and reckless decision,” read an article for the People’s Daily newspaper. Apple also recently removed the Quartz news app from the Chinese App Store, supposedly on request of the China government. According to Quartz‘ investigations editor, this was due to their, “excellent coverage of ongoing Hong Kong protests.”
In an email to Apple employees, Cook defended removing the HKmap.live app. Cook said that Apple had received “credible information” from Hong Kong’s tech crime and cybersecurity unit. It suggested that the app was, “being used to maliciously target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present.”
Apple faces big challenges with the current disruption in China. (It’s not the only one either: companies ranging from Blizzard to the NBA have also had similar issues.) The issue for Apple is that it relies heavily on China, both to make its products and also as a market place. Tim Cook has frequently talked about how China is Apple’s future biggest market.
Dealing with the Chinese government
As a result, Apple has made various acquiescences to the Chinese government. For instance, it has removed the Taiwan flag emoji from its iOS keyboard for users in Hong Kong and Macau. China does not recognize Taiwan as its own country. It also agreed to switch Chinese iCloud accounts over to a data center controlled by a Chinese company.
Charles Mok is not the only lawmaker to be critical of Apple. The company’s recent decisions caused GOP Sen. Josh Hawley to tweet: “Who’s is really running Apple? Tim Cook or Beijing?” Meanwhile, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton said: “Apple is yet another capitalist who’ll sell rope to communists to hang us.”
Source: Business Insider