Apple is the latest American company to find itself under attack by China over the Hong Kong protest movement after the tech giant approved an app that lets protesters locate police.
Chinese state media accused the Cupertino, California-based company of “providing a gateway for ‘toxic apps’” and offending the Chinese people by allowing the map app, HKmap.live, to be downloaded through its App Store.
“Business is business, and politics is politics,” an article in People’s Daily, a mouthpiece of the Chinese Community Party, said. “Nobody wants to drag Apple into the lingering unrest in Hong Kong. But people have reason to assume that Apple is mixing business with politics, and even illegal acts. Apple has to think about the consequences of its unwise and reckless decision.”
Apple and other companies, the article continued, “need to know that only the prosperity of China and China’s Hong Kong will bring them a broader and more sustainable market.”
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs also objected to Apple’s decision to approve the app.
“Anyone with a conscience and sense of justice should boycott and object to this instead of supporting and indulging it,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, according to reports.
HKmap.live crowdsources information to show protesters the location of police, water cannons, and incoming tear gas, among other things, using emojis. Apple blocked the app from its App Store earlier this month, saying it helped users evade law enforcement, according to HKMap.live’s developer. But it became available on the App Store last week.
"Your app contains content - or facilitates, enables, and encourages an activity - that is not legal ... Specifically, the app allowed users to evade law enforcement."@Apple assume our user are lawbreakers and therefore evading law enforcement, which is clearly not the case.— HKmap.live 全港抗爭即時地圖 (@hkmaplive) October 1, 2019
Thanks everyone, @Apple finally made the right decision. Will update later as things are going crazy in #HK now. pic.twitter.com/PsnNry0V21— HKmap.live 全港抗爭即時地圖 (@hkmaplive) October 4, 2019
Apple has relied on China as a manufacturing base, but the company has faced declining sales in the country.
The iPhone maker is also just the latest U.S. company to find itself at the center of controversy for support of the Hong Kong protesters.
China is going head-to-head with the NBA after Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team, tweeted support for the Hong Kong protest movement. The message prompted backlash from the Chinese government and led the Chinese Basketball Association to sever ties with the team.
Morey deleted his tweet saying “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong,” and the NBA issued a statement distancing itself from the message. The league said it recognized the tweet “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China.”
On Tuesday, league Commissioner Adam Silver said Morey “is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression.”
Blizzard Entertainment, a video game developer, has also faced backlash in the U.S. after it suspended professional gamer Ng Wai Chung, who goes by Blitzchung, for a year and revoked his prize money for voicing support for the Hong Kong protest movement in an interview.