Apple, on Wednesday, removed an app called HKmap.live that protestors in Hong Kong used to track police movements in its latest move of subservience to the Chinese government.
The Communist country slammed Apple Inc. for allowing HKmap.live available for download in its App Store, saying the app violated its rules because it was used to ambush police and by criminals to victimize residents in areas with no law enforcement.
HKmap.live allows users to report police locations, use of tear gas, and other details that are added to a regularly updated map. Another version is available for smartphones that use the Android operating system. However, the Chinese government sees the smartphone app as a platform that allows activists to report police movements, prompting illegal activities in the region.
Apple initially rejected the application in its App Store earlier this month, but then reversed the decision last week, allowing the app to appear. However, the approval quickly drew commentary from the Chinese Communist Party’s leading newspaper, the People’s Daily, criticizing Apple.
The app “facilitates illegal behavior,” People’s Daily said. “Is Apple guiding Hong Kong thugs?” the newspaper added.
Apple said in a statement that “many concerned customers in Hong Kong” contacted the company about the mapping app. Apple said it immediately began investigating the app’s use and found it “has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong.”
“The app displays police locations, and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” the statement said.
Under Apple’s rules and policies, apps that meet its standards to appear in the App Store have sometimes been removed after their release if they were found to facilitate illegal activity or threaten public safety.
Asked whether the Chinese government had asked Apple to remove HKmap.live from its online store, a foreign ministry spokesman said he had no information about that.
“What I can tell you is that these radical, violent crimes in Hong Kong have seriously challenged the legal system and social order in Hong Kong, threatened the safety of Hong Kong residents’ lives and property and undermined the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong,” said the spokesman, Geng Shuang.
“Anyone who has a conscience and justice should resist and oppose instead of supporting and indulging those actions,” Geng said at a regular news briefing.
Notably, Apple is not the single entity that has faced scrutiny and backlash from the Chinese government due to reasons that could avert the Communist country’s goal for unification.
Last weekend, on the National Basketball Association over a comment by the general manager of the Houston Rockets in support of the protesters, China’s state TV had canceled broadcasts of NBA games. The basketball association quickly issued a statement apologizing for their actions.
Likewise, Apple also removed the Taiwanese flag in their emoji keyboard amidst requests of the Communist country.