Apple removed the Quartz app from its app store in China - "Presumably because of the excellent work our team in Hong Kong has been doing covering the protests", Quartz technology editor Mike Murphy said - and removed the Taiwan flag emoji for iOS users in Hong Kong.
A display of the app "HKmap.live" designed by an outside supplier and that had available on Apple Inc.'s online store is seen in Hong Kong, on October 9, 2019. Apple had previously banned the app, but reinstated it just a few days ago, only to remove it again on Wednesday. They went on to say they believed the App Store's initial rejection of HKmap.live was a bureaucratic matter, but that the latest removal was, "clearly a political decision to suppress freedom and human rights in #HongKong".
Especially in light of recent events where Apple drew severe criticism from even its most loyal fans when it removed a Hong Kong Map app that was protecting protestors from violent police confrontations from the App Store, scrutiny of the company in relation to China is more heightened than ever.
Hong Kong police asked @Google to remove a protest-related app.
A number of gaming companies have become embroiled in the Hong Kong protests.
"Apple Sells Out Pro-Democracy Protesters in Hong Kong to Appease Chinese Government", tech blog Gizmodo wrote as Twitter users called to #boycottApple.
China is Apple's second-largest market next to the USA, and the company has given leverage to China to make demands of Apple that are compliant with the country's government like limiting internet freedom. "Communist Party mouthpiece The People's Daily stated by stocking the program, Apple has been" mixing business with politics, as well as illegal acts".
Defending the app, Mok wrote that HKmap.live "helps citizens avoid areas where pedestrians not involved in any criminal activities might be subjected to police brutality", adding that "there had been "numerous cases of innocent passerby [sic] in the neighbourhood injured by the Hong Kong Police Force's excessive force in crowd dispersal situations".
It's possible the Hong Kong police did tell Apple it was being harmed by the app in some way. China is also the primary manufacturer of Apple products such as iPhones, it seems extremely unlikely that the firm would leave behind its vast network of suppliers and assemblers who build hundreds of millions of iPhones for the company every year.
"We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place to discover apps", Apple said. Ted Cruz on Saturday condemned China's handling of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, saying suppression of free speech in the territory showed fear from what he called a "dictatorship" in Beijing.
In response, the developers of HKmap.live claim Apple is simply kowtowing to the Chinese government, which has condemned the Hong Kong protests. The NBA's China headache began when Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong's protestors.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the matter, but a leaked email said to have been sent from CEO Tim Cook to Apple employees lists the iPhone maker's reasons for caving to the demands of an authoritarian regime.
Apple's move, it said, was "clearly a political decision" created to suppress freedom and human rights in Hong Kong. On its own, this information is benign.
The Chinese government has condemned the protests, and official media has often criticised companies overseas that appear to endorse them. It's a responsibility that we take very seriously, and it's one that we aim to preserve.