Apple will try to fight off an attempt by an investor activist group to force it to stop banning applications when requested by the Chinese government. A vote on this will take place as Apple’s annual shareholders meeting today, where China is expected to be a major topic of discussion for multiple reasons.
Update: This proposal was voted down 59.4% to 40.6%, according to Reuters.
Apple accused of aiding Chinese censorship
The iPhone maker regularly removes items from the Chinese App Store when requested by that country’s government. It recently pulled down a mapping app that proved useful to Hong Kong protesters, for example.
Activists at SumOfUS criticize this practice. “Just last month, the company admitted to removing 517 apps in China at the request of the government,” points out this group. “That’s in addition to the 600 ‘virtual private network’ apps (VPNs) Apple confessed to blocking in 2017. VPNs are used to get around controls on communication imposed by Chinese regulators.
SumOfUS created a petition called “Apple: Stop coddling China’s censorship machine,” which will be presented at today’s shareholders meeting. The petition garnered over 131,000 signatures.
Apple defends the practice by pointing out that the applications it removes are in violation of Chinese law. And the company believes it’s doing good in that country. “We are convinced that Apple can best promote fundamental rights, including the right of free expression, by being engaged even where we may disagree with a particular country’s law,“ said Cynthia Hogan, Apple VP for Public Policy, Americas.
China on the docket at Apple shareholders meeting
Even once the matter of censorship has been dealt with, China is likely to keep coming up. The coronavirus outbreak that started in that country will surely loom over the discussion, especially as Apple asked attendees to be sure they took precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the meeting.
Apple’s share price dropped over 6% in the past two days amidst fears of how this disease will affect the company’s financial future. Most Apple products are assembled in China, and these plants are struggling to deal with the outbreak.