Published: Thu, October 10, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Apple bans app that warns Hong Kong citizens about police activity, again

Apple bans app that warns Hong Kong citizens about police activity, again

Apple has removed from its App Store a smartphone app used by Hong Kong pro-democracy activists to crowdsource the location of protesters and police, after Chinese state media suggested the tech giant was aiding "rioters".

"The app displays police locations and 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", the statement said.

The Reuters news agency said that the app continued to work for users who had previously downloaded it in Hong Kong.

The app had only been approved in Apple's app stores last week.

Apple's reversal came after the Chinese Communist Party's flagship newspaper criticized Apple for letting the software through.

Under Apple's rules and policies, apps that meet its standards to appear in the App Store have sometimes been removed after their release if they were found to facilitate illegal activity or threaten public safety. The company also removed BackupHK, a separate app that served as mirror of the main app. Hong Kong police had no immediate comment.

That's not all. Apple has acquiesced to a number of other demands over the years, including removing VPN apps from the Chinese App Store - thereby restricting users from accessing overseas sites - and censoring Hong Kong singers from the Chinese version of Apple Music.

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.

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The app is still available on the Google Play Store, and thankfully it is viewable to all and sundry through its web site.

The demonstrations that started over now-shelved extradition bill in March have turned into weekly riots with radical groups of protesters vandalizing properties, beating people for supporting Beijing and attacking police.

Apple did not comment beyond its statement, and the app's developer did not immediately have a comment on the removal.

"Apple has to think about the consequences of its unwise and reckless decision". "This sounds rather disingenuous", she said.

A Twitter account linked to the app posted a statement denying it endangered police or Hong Kong residents.

China's state broadcaster has scrapped plans to show two US NBA basketball pre-season games over a pro-Hong Kong tweet from a team manager, and sponsors have also been critical.

China accounts for around a sixth of Apple's overall sales, and is the company's third largest market after the United States and Europe.

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

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