Apple told Passion Times that the app would be banned in China’s App Store because it contains “content that is illegal in China.” Is this a sign of Apple’s nonchalance towards censorship?
Stirring up anti-communist feelings among citizens doesn’t sit well with the Chinese government. So it’s not surprising that Passion Times, a news organization started by anti-Communist Hong Kong advocacy group Civic Passion, has apparently received notice that its iOS app will be removed from the App Store in China. Tech in Asia’s check on the app store confirms that the app is no longer available.
A blog post on the Passion Times website displays an email sent by Apple, saying the app will be banned because it contains “content that is illegal in China,” therefore violating the App Store Review Guidelines. However, the app can still be downloaded in other countries.
Here’s a copy of the letter:
Protests in Hong Kong
Civic Passion has been organizing student protests in Hong Kong against Beijing’s encroachment into local politics. The Wall Street Journal says the group has been “demanding free elections and believes mainland China is eroding the city’s culture and the Cantonese dialect—the lingua franca of the city.”
It is possible that the Communist Party of China may have pressed Apple into removing the app, just like it is censoring news coverage of the Hong Kong protests in the Mainland. Passion Times’ Facebook group has over 200,000 likes, and its followers are quite engaged in sharing content and discussing issues.
Apple has every reason to comply. It’s trying to boost its market share in China among the wealthy, and being on the government’s good side is the only way to do business there. CEO Tim Cook has made repeated business trips to the country.
Apple v. Google in China
This is not the first time Apple is entangling itself in politics. Unlike Google, it takes a proactive, and some would say overbearing, stance towards policing content in its app store. It took five tries, for example, for an app that tracks drone strikes to receive approval from Apple.
Apple’s comfort with censoring content will give it a leg up in entering China. Google sought to find a compromise between maintaining free speech and appeasing China. That approach failed.
Editing by David Corbin
This post was originally published on Tech in Asia.