Tim Cook defends decision to remove Hong Kong mapping app

A policeman restraining a demonstrator at Harbour City in Hong Kong yesterday. Protests planned for last night included some in support of Taiwan on its National Day and rallies against perceived police brutality. ST

The company has "thoroughly" reviewed the facts surrounding HKmap.live - which provides crowdsourced information on police checkpoints, among other things - and the decision to pull the app "best protects our users", Cook told employees in an internal message.

Apple had initially rejected the app, called HKMap.live, from inclusion in the app store on 2 October 2019, reportedly because it "facilitates, enables, and encourages an activity that is not legal", enabling users to avoid law enforcement. "We once believed the App rejection is simply a bureaucratic f [**k] up, but now it is clearly a political decision to suppress freedom and human right in #HongKong", the developer concluded.

Activision Blizzard banned an e-sports player known as Blitzchung from its Hearthstone card game and took away his winnings after he shouted his support for the Hong Kong protests in a post-match interview on its streaming service.

Hong Kong is also facing its first recession in a decade due to the protests, with tourism and retail hardest hit.

"The Chinese Communist government, I believe, is terrified of the protesters in the streets in Hong Kong", the Texas Republican told reporters at an afternoon meeting at the USA consul general's residence in the Chinese special administrative region.

"Apple highly values the Chinese market and removing the controversial app is a smart move", an analyst said in the article, driving home the party's approval.

China denies the accusations and says foreign countries, including Britain and the United States, are fomenting unrest.

Apple's decision came soon after Chinese state media criticized it for allowing HKmap to be downloaded.

In his memo, Mr Cook echoed an earlier Apple statement which said the company received reports which alleged that the app was being used to target individual police officers and that it violated Apple's guidelines as well as "local laws".

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Hong Kong's crisis has put pressure on those doing business with China to take sides. Apple's approval for the app obviously helps rioters.

As for the Chinese firms, the ban on doing business with American companies such as chipmakers may force them to develop their own components: "The signal from the U.S. government is clear - if you don't build up your supply chain you have a bottleneck".

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam invoked British colonial-era emergency laws last Friday and banned the wearing of face masks which protesters have used to shield their identities.

In addition, Apple also also removed the app of news outlet, Quartz, from the App Store in China saying Quartz was publishing content "illegal in China".

One of the police-tracking app's users, Hong Kong office worker Acko Wong, 26, scoffed at the suggestion that the app helped give free rein to criminals. "Many concerned customers in Hong Kong have contacted us about this app and we immediately began investigating it", Apple said.

A prominent Hong Kong legislator and IT entrepreneur, Charles Mok, has warned Apple from becoming "an accomplice for Chinese censorship and oppression" in an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Naturally, the move angered Hong Kong users and democracy activists from all over the world, but Apple CEO Tim Cook has an explanation. The National Basketball Association, which has been pursuing its own expansion into China, has muzzled its own employees after an executive with the Houston Rockets drew the ire of Beijing by posting a Tweet in support of the Hong Kong protesters.

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