The agenda for Apple CEO Tim Cook’s trip to China last week included more than a meeting with the country’s top market regulator.
One day after the meeting, Cook became the new chairman of an advisory board for the economics school at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
The news site ETtoday said Cook chaired his first advisory board meeting for Tsinghua’s School of Economics and Management on Friday with 35 members in attendance.
This was the same day U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to Cook criticizing Apple’s decision to remove a live map app from the App Store that was being used by pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong.
Tim Cook in China, a thorny business trip
Company CEOs serving on university panels are common, but the timing of Cook’s appointment is likely to draw severak questions. The board includes some members of China’s Communist Party, according to Patiently Apple.
Apple finds itself in the middle of political turmoil between China and semi-autonomous Hong Kong, which has been wracked with massive protests for much of the year. The tensions rose when Hong Kong’s government proposed a new law that would speed up the extradition of criminal suspects to the mainland.
Hundreds of thousands of protestors shut down the streets of Hong Kong and its president tabled the proposed law in response. But protests continued with organizers saying they would not rest until the proposed law gets scrapped completely.
Protestors have been using an app called HKmap.live, which uses real-time reports from various channels to follow the protests and movements by police.
Apple pulled HKmap.live and a news site app from the App Store after it found itself under pressure by the Chinese government.
In an email to Apple employees, Cook defended removing the app after Hong Kong officials presented the company “credible information” that protestors were using the app to target individuals and property with violence.
A bipartisan group from the U.S. House and Senate signed a letter last week “raising real concern” that Apple is bowing to China to protect corporate interests.
The letter came one day after the office of chief regulator Xiao Yaqing released a statement about a meeting with Cook to discuss investment in China, consumer rights and corporate responsibility.