Apple faces shareholder vote on human rights policies after banning Hong Kong police activity tracking app

Apple’s human rights policies will face a fresh shareholder vote in the new year following the company’s decision to ban a Hong Kong police activity tracking app from Apple’s Hong Kong-facing App Store.

Ben Lovejoy for 9to5Mac:

Apple objected to the motion, but the US Securities and Exchange Commission has ruled that it must be put to a vote at the shareholder meeting expected to be held in February.

The Financial Times reports that the motion has been submitted by consumer advocacy group SumOfUs. The group has likely bought sufficient Apple shares to qualify for the right to put forward motions to the annual general meeting, the threshold for which is a $2000 holding.

The non-binding resolution asks Apple to describe how it responds to government or other demands that might limit free expression or access to information. It also demands details about how Apple makes policies concerning free speech and access to information. — The Financial Times

Apple initially banned the app, then allowed it, then removed it following vague threats about “consequences” from Chinese state media. Tim Cook justified the ban by saying the app was in violation of both the law and Apple’s own policies. Many were, however, unconvinced by this, with calls for Apple to prioritize values over profits.

MacDailyNews Take: While the resolution is likely to fail — unfortunately, as we’d like some transparency here as to exactly how/who makes these decisions based upon what criteria, if any – this is a can of worms that illustrates the impossible tightrope Tim Cook tries to walk, and sometimes fails to walk, when it comes to China due to Apple’s self-inflicted dependence on a country with an abysmal human rights record.

Here is the October 18,2019 letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook from U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and U.S. House members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher, and Tom Malinowski:

Letter from U.S. Congress to Apple CEO Tim Cook regarding actions in Hong Kong


    1. That’s not the point. Tim Cook has done many interviews and speeches regarding the importance of human rights, free speech, privacy, and security. The problem is, is that there are times when his actions don’t reflect his words (ie: ban of HK police tracking app). If you’re going to be a champion of the most basic of human rights, you need to put your money where your mouth is.

      This is one page Tim Cook (and future Apple CEO’s) need to take out of Steve Jobs’ playbook. Stay the hell out of politics and be maniacally focused on making the best products and services. Period.

    2. Sounds like a reasonable argument, unless you actually know the facts: There is no local law to which Apple is complying in this case.

      “When China declares an app illegal in mainland China, Apple has no choice but to comply. The HKMaps decision was different — it was a political decision, not a legal one — and that difference is worth emphasizing. Apple could have chosen to fight for the HKMaps app.”

      John Gruber, Daring Fireball, October 22, 2019

      1. And yeah. cut off their nose to spite their face. How many 100’s of billions of potential sales are at stake. Is Apple able to close all those factories in China in a month and be up and running in a month?

  1. The protests which started off as peaceful were taken over by anarchists.

    Hundreds of shops and businesses, mostly owned by mainlanders or sympathetic to them ,were vandalized or destroyed. one chain had 75 stores vandalized. People voicing support for the mainland were attacked. As were off duty policemen. One off duty policeman was set on fire. A politician with mainland views was stabbed. People using public transport were attacked, train and bus stations were barricaded or smashed.

    I saw one video sent by friends who were in Hong Kong where a guy cleaning trash left over by protestors in front of his street was beaten senseless

    Note so far two people have been killed in the protests. One fell off a bridge, the other killed by protestors. After six months of protestors throwing rocks, fire bombs and shooting arrows at police the police have killed ZERO. I used to live in New York and near Detroit. I can imagine what police there would have done if you shot arrows or threw Molotov cocktails at them)

    I’m for democracy and certainly the Hong Kong people have legitimate grievances but Apple was right to pull the app as public safety was involved.

    1. I am all for Hong Kongers when it comes to resisting mainland control, and the original intent of the peaceful protesters was just.

      But I have to agree, those still protesting and damaging infrastructure have lost their way completely and lashing out irrationally.

      It’s hard to imagine it, but by not escalating things further, the Chinese government did the right and smart thing. The current protest movement will eventually burn itself out.

  2. But the fundamental question that must be faced is why Apple and the US are in China in the first place. And who or what benefits by handing over new technological discoveries to an economic competitor.

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