Apple is “assessing” a new Hong Kong security law that could make protest a crime, claims Bloomberg.
The newly passed National Security Law criminalizes acts of secession (breaking away from China), undermining power and authority of the government, the use of violence or intimidation, and collusion with foreign or external forces.
China says that it was return stability to Hong Kong, although critics of the new law worry that it will negatively affect freedom of speech and protest.
Apple says that it has not received any new requests for user data in Hong Kong. The National Security Law went into effect on 30 June. This was symbolically one hour before the 23rd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China.
“Apple has always required that all content requests from local law enforcement authorities be submitted through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in place between the United States and Hong Kong,” Apple said in a statement. It noted that, under those rules, the U.S. Department of Justice “reviews Hong Kong authorities’ requests for legal conformance.”
Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Telegram have said that they are “pausing” cooperation with requests for user information. This could put pressure on Apple to do the same.
New Hong Kong security law and beyond
Apple has been pulled into the ongoing Hong Kong protests once before. In 2019, Apple removed a map app from the App Store last year after pressure from Beijing. Protestors used the app to share information. Tim Cook defended Apple’s decision to pull the app after saying it had received “credible information” that the app was being used to help commit violence against individuals and property.
However, there was significant backlash from those who support the Hong Kong protestors. Apple’s decision drew ire from U.S. lawmakers. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted, “Who is really running Apple? Tim Cook or Beijing?”
Over the past decade, Apple has had to make various concessions in China. These have included migrating local iCloud accounts to a China-based server, remove the Taiwanese flag emoji from its keyboard in local markets, and more.
Tim Cook has noted that China is Apple’s biggest future market. China is also the country where the majority of Apple’s manufacturing takes place. In other words, it’s a crucial part of Apple’s business here in 2020. That makes scenarios like this even tougher to deal with.