Apple won’t testify at congressional hearing on tech industry ties in China

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iPhone sales are finally rebounding in China
Tim Cook has spoken about China being Apple's future biggest market.
Photo: Tim Cook/Weibo

Apple won’t attend a March congressional hearing about the tech industry’s relationships in China, the Washington Post reports.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley called the March 4 hearing. Hawley has raised concerns about tech companies’ reliance on and possible cozy relations with China.

TikTok also declined to testify at the upcoming March congressional hearing. However, TikTok said that it would make a top aide available at a later date, although not next week. Apple gave no official comment on its reasons for not attending.

Apple, along with TikTok, declined a similar invitation by Senator Hawley late last year. Referring to last year’s meeting, the Washington Post writes that:

“[T]he Republican senator lambasted the iPhone giant … for storing Chinese users’ data locally in accordance with government rules. The move threatens Apple customers’ security given Beijing’s broad surveillance powers, Hawley said then, even though Apple stresses it has not built backdoors into its products.”

Apple could receive a “verbal lashing” for choosing to sit out this hearing. Senator Hawley is among the federal lawmakers who view Beijing as a potential privacy and security threat.

Congressional hearing on China

According to the most recent Freedom on the Net report, China is last among 65 countries when it comes to internet freedom. China was deemed the worst abuser of internet freedoms for the fourth year in a row. This includes censorship, surveillance, and more.

Apple is in a difficult situation when it comes to China. Tim Cook has talked about China being Apple’s future biggest market. Despite being an outspoken proponent of privacy and progressive issues in the U.S., Cook has played it cool in China. When he gave a 2017 speech at China’s World Internet Conference, Cook was obliquely critical of Chinese censorship. However, he avoided saying anything that was likely to get Apple in trouble.

Alongside relying on China for customers, Apple also relies on China for manufacturing. Although some of this work is carried out in other countries, the recent coronavirus outbreak shows just how heavily China-focused Apple’s manufacturing actually is.

Source: Washington Post