Apple pulls Hong Kong app used by protesters after China warning

Ruben Fields
October 10, 2019

Apple has removed from its App Store a smartphone app used by Hong Kong pro-democracy activists to crowdsource the location of protesters and police, after Chinese state media suggested the tech giant was aiding "rioters".

A Google spokesman said that "The Revolution Of Our Times" app, which lets users role-play as Hong Kong protesters, violated a long-standing policy "prohibiting developers from capitalizing on sensitive events, such as attempting to make money from serious ongoing conflicts or tragedies through a game".

Apple said in a statement on Wednesday it had begun an immediate investigation after "many concerned customers in Hong Kong" contacted the company about the app and Apple found it had endangered law enforcement and residents.

"We have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police", Apple said.

Although the app has been removed from Apple's store, a website version appears to remain active. Police have responded with tear gas, batons and, in some cases, live ammunition. But the crisis has left her afraid of the police, making HK Maps "quite useful", she said.

Apple has been accused of "caving to political pressure" after the firm removed a mapping app from its online store linked to protesters in Hong Kong.

Apple did not comment beyond its statement.

"How do you ambush a group of police with equipment and gear like helmets and shields?" he asked.

"If you know there are many police in that area, and I'm afraid they will arrest me for like wearing a mask or dressing in black or even if I'm young", he told AP. Widely decried as heavy-handed, the handling of the protests has collapsed public support for what long was considered one of Asia's best police forces.

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The protests were triggered by a now-abandoned government plan to allow criminal suspects to be extradited for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts in mainland China.

The crisis is putting pressure on those doing business with China to take sides.

The NBA sports league found itself in hot water after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for the Hong Kong protests. It said that violated local law and Apple guidelines.

The tech giant's pulling of HKmap.live was blasted as bowing to China and comes as high-profile brands, including the National Basketball Association and its Houston Rockets franchise, come under pressure from communist authorities over perceived support for democracy demonstrations in the financial hub.

China-U.S. relations have soured in recent days following various conflicts between the Chinese government and American officials and entities.

China is vital for Apple's business.

Most of Apple's products are assembled in China, and the nation represents the company's third-largest market after the US and Europe.

Apple, headquartered in Cupertino, California, also is an important asset for China.

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