Apple Removes App Used in Hong Kong

Clay Curtis
October 12, 2019

This case is no different.

Apple's CEO Tim Cook defended the app's removal on October 10, saying that it was based on "credible information" from Hong Kong police and Apple users in Hong Kong.

Hundreds of mask-wearing pro-democracy protesters yesterday marched through Hong Kong's central business district at lunchtime, occupying a main thoroughfare and disrupting traffic as the territory braced for another weekend of turmoil. "This app violates our guidelines and local laws".

The move drew criticism, however, for coming a day after the Communist Party-run People's Daily newspaper excoriated Apple for being "an accomplice to the rioters".

Apple phone user Canny Ng said the decision was "not acceptable". He concluded that the company "thoroughly reviewed them" and believes that this decision best protected its users.

The official Twitter account of Hkmap.Live said that the developers strongly disagree with the claims made by Apple and the Hong Kong police that the app endangers police officers and residents in the city.

The dynamic, crowd-sourced app has become popular for helping people to navigate through the tear gas-filled streets in Hong Kong, a former British colony where pro-democracy protests have erupted since June against Beijing's creeping interference.

Many fear China has been eroding Hong Kong's freedoms, guaranteed under a "one country, two systems" formula introduced with the 1997 handover.

"Criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement", Apple said.

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Cook wrote in a memo obtained by Bloomberg News: "Over the past several days we received credible information, from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as from users in Hong Kong, that the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present".

Apple did not comment beyond its statement.

Apple blogger John Gruber of Daring Fireball, who has published a flurry of posts about the removal, ripped into the company's removal of the app and explanation for that action.

"Given the context of how (Apple) has over the years removed apps and removed access to news particularly inside mainland China that the Chinese government doesn't want, I think that the removal of this particular app strikes me as another shameful incident in which a multinational company bends to Chinese government pressure", she said.

Responding to a request for details about the scheduled meeting, Mrs Lam's office said in an email: "The Chief Executive did not meet with the said US Senator".

Most of the content on the app is user-generated, but allows users to downvote and enables moderators to crack down on content that "solicit, promote, or encourage criminal activity". President Trump has reportedly told China's leadership that he won't speak out in favour of the Hong Kong protesters as long as he gets favourable trade terms with the Chinese government. CEO Zach Seward denounced "this kind of government censorship of the internet". Since the demonstrations started, people in Hong Kong have been using the app to avoid places where demonstrators or police are gathering.

Jewelry seller Tiffany & Co., game developer Blizzard and footwear maker Nike have also been caught up in Chinese outrage over Hong Kong-related issues.

Charles Mok, a legislative counselor in Hong Kong, stated that Apple's decision had left him "deeply disappointed" and contested the company's reason for removing the app in an open letter to Cook. A web version was also still viewable on iPhones.

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