“Apple Inc. took a public-opinion beating after it removed anticensorship tools from its China app store last weekend,” Li Yuan reports for The Wall Street Journal. “‘Shame on Apple!’ was a sentiment voiced on social media by some who felt Apple was placing its commercial interests above their need to access information.”

“Apple’s response, as has been the case previously, is that it did so to meet China’s regulatory requirements,” Li reports. “Get used to hearing that a lot in the future.”

“Apple’s got a China quandary. Greater China, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, is Apple’s biggest foreign market, generating about 20% of the company’s sales. China is also the mainstay of Apple’s global manufacturing and supply chain. Increasingly, as it sells iPhones to Chinese consumers, it is selling them Apple services too,” Li reports. “That is where the risks kick in. Apple became the standout China success story among big U.S. tech companies partly because the Chinese government views it as a hardware company. Now it is obviously more than that.”

“Censorship is becoming increasingly stringent under President Xi Jinping. Boisterous online debate, much less dissent, is being quashed. Internet sites, even startups, have to hire phalanxes of staff to censor content that the government deems inappropriate,” Li reports. “Apple shut down iBooks and iTunes Movies services in China last year. It removed the New York Times apps from the China App Store. Then last weekend Apple took down, according to mobile-app tracking site ASO100.com, over 400 apps with the description of ‘virtual private network’ (VPN), or software that enables users to circumvent the country’s vast system of internet filters. In all those cases, Apple said it was following Chinese laws and regulations.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Why does the Communist Party of China so fear free expression?

When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. — Thomas Jefferson

MacDailyNews Note: Tim Cook’s comments during Apple’s Q317 earnings conference call with analysts on Tuesday:

Turning to China, let me comment on what I assumed is at the root of your question about this VPN issue. Let me just address that head on. The central government in China back in 2015 started tightening the regulations associated with VPN apps, and we have a number of those on our store. Essentially, as a requirement for someone to operate a VPN, they have to have a license from the government there. Earlier this year, they began a renewed effort to enforce that policy, and we were required by the government to remove some of the VPN apps from the App Store that don’t meet these new regulations. We understand that those same requirements are on other app stores, and as we checked through that, that is the case.

Today there are actually still hundreds of VPN apps on the App Store, including hundreds by developers that are outside China, and so there continues to be VPN apps available. We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like we do in other countries, we follow the law wherever we do business. And we strongly believe that participating in markets and bringing benefits to customers is in the best interest of the folks there and in other countries as well. And so we believe in engaging with governments even when we disagree.

And in this particular case, now back to commenting on this one, we’re hopeful that over time the restrictions that we’re seeing are loosened because innovation really requires freedom to collaborate and communicate, and I know that that is a major focus there. And so that’s what we’re seeing from that point of view.

Some folks have tried to link it to the U.S. situation last year, and they’re very different. In the case of the U.S., the law in the U.S. supported us, which was very clear. In the case of China, the law is also very clear there. And, like we would if the U.S. changed the law here, we’d have to abide by them in both cases; that doesn’t mean that we don’t state our point of view in the appropriate way. We always do that.

SEE ALSO:
Joining Apple, Amazon’s China cloud service bows to censors – August 1, 2017
There are two sides to Apple’s China story – July 31, 2017
Apple issues statement regarding removal of VPN apps from China App Store – July 31, 2017
Apple removes VPN apps from China App Store – July 29, 2017
Apple sets up China data center to meet new cybersecurity rules – July 12, 2017
Analyst: China iPhone sales are pivotal for Apple – June 26, 2017
In bid to improve censorship, China to summon Apple execs to discuss stricter App Store oversight – April 20, 2017
Will Apple CEO Tim Cook stand up to China over App Store censorship? – April 19, 2017
Beijing cyber regulators to summon Apple over live streaming apps – April 19, 2017
Apple goes on charm offensive in China with red iPhones and a visit by CEO Tim Cook – March 24, 2017
Apple CEO Tim Cook defends globalization, walks tightrope on privacy in rare public speech in China – March 18, 2017
Apple to spend $507 million to set up two more research centers, boost investment in in China – March 17, 2017
Apple removes New York Times apps from App Store in China at behest of Chinese government – January 4, 2017
China dethrones U.S. to become the largest market in the world for iOS App Store revenue – October 20, 2016
Apple to set up second R&D center in China – October 12, 2016
Apple’s first R&D Center in China will develop hardware, employ 500 – September 29, 2016
Apple CEO Cook ‘pretty confident’ of soon resuming movie and book sales in China – May 3, 2016
Apple’s biggest China problem: iPhone’s strong encryption – May 2, 2016
The New Yorker: What Apple has to fear from China – April 30, 2016
Carl Icahn out of Apple over worries about China’s ‘dictatorship’ government – April 29, 2016
China could slam door on Apple, says top global risk expert – April 25, 2016
China’s increasing censorship hits Apple, but Apple might punch back – April 22, 2016
China shutters Apple’s online book and movie services – April 22, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook joins Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ board of directors – April 6, 2016