Apple pulls police-tracking app used in Hong Kong protests

Andrew Cummings
October 10, 2019

Apple's decision to approve the app had provoked strong condemnation from the Chinese state media, with People's Daily - a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece - claiming that "allowing the "poisonous" app to flourish is a betrayal of the Chinese people's feelings".

Op-eds that appeared in Chinese papers questioned if Apple meant to be an accomplice to rioters or whether the company wanted to be dragged into the lingering unrest in Hong Kong.

The iPhone maker has banned two apps in the last 48 hours that are potentially offensive to China, including Hong Kong protest-tracking app HKMap Live and news app Quartz.

The company said in a statement that was removed from its store because the app "has been used to target and ambush police" and "threaten public safety".

In a statement, Apple said: "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 victimise residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement".

"Many concerned customers in Hong Kong have contacted us about this app and we immediately began investigating it", Apple said in a statement.

The online and Android versions of were still available.

Hong Kongers took to social media to protest the removal.

Initially it rejected the app that showed not only police movements, but also if tear gas is used and other protester-specific features.

This is just as protesters called for the local government to meet their remaining demands, including universal suffrage and an independent investigation into alleged police brutality. "It ensures residents' safety".

"As we all know, the decision came shortly after the Chinese state media's censure of Apple about the app".

Apple, headquartered in Cupertino, Calif., also is an important asset for China.

Chinese papers also questioned Apple's rationale after the tech behemoth reversed its earlier decision to block, and the app instantly surged to the top of the most downloaded chart in the Hong Kong App Store after its "resurrection".

Ms Wang suggested Apple had failed to stand up for freedom of speech by removing the app.

It's Apple's second-biggest market after the United States and CEO Tim Cook says it eventually will become No. 1.

But the Silicon Valley giant has struggled in recent years, lagging behind local rivals.

Blizzard is part-owned by Chinese giant Tencent.

The backdrop is that Apple risks being further singled out as Beijing seeks to make an example as a warning to Western companies that they must not have it both ways - making money on the mainland while using words or deeds to question China's sovereignty, territorial integrity as well as the situation in Hong Kong.

Last Friday, after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for the city's protests, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV cut ties with the National Basketball Association and announced it would not be broadcasting preseason games on its network.

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