American technology giant Apple Inc. gave in this week to Chinese authorities, permanently removing from the App Store a smartphone application primarily used by Hong Kong protesters.
According to The Verge, the company announced its decision to ban HKmap.live on Thursday — but not before changing its mind about the app on two separate occasions.
The GPS-powered phone application and web service, which allows the city’s residents to mark and share the location of road closures and police activity, had been used in recent months by those protesting a bill that would give some of Hong Kong’s autonomy as a Special Administrative Region to the Chinese federal government.
“We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place to discover apps,” Apple said in a statement. “We have learned that an app, HKmap.live, has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong.”
BREAKING: Apple drops smartphone app that allows Hong Kong activists to report police movements following Chinese criticism. https://t.co/VdzJt6wOIK
— The Associated Press (@AP) October 10, 2019
According to HKmap.live’s developers, the Silicon Valley superpower initially rejected requests for the app to appear on the App Store late last month, claiming it “contains content or facilitates, enables, and encourages an activity — that is not legal” by allowing everyday citizens to evade police checkpoints and clashes between protesters and authorities.
Apple walked back this rejection just days later, allowing the app to appear in the store with no rationale given as to why a change of heart had taken place.
Within a week, however, the company shifted gears once again in its Thursday statement, claiming the app had led to protesters ambushing Chinese authorities as well as other general “public safety” threats.
“Many concerned customers in Hong Kong have contacted us about this app and we immediately began investigating it,” Apple said. “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 victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement.”
“This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store,” the tech giant concluded.
HKmap.live developers came forward on Twitter within hours of the decision, pointing out that no evidence has been presented by the company or the Chinese government that the app has been used at any point for the purposes of attacking authorities, The Verge reported.
The developers also said they have long publicized their wish that the app be used peacefully and within the bounds of Chinese law at all times.
“There is 0 evidence to support CSTCB’s accusation,” they said. “HKmap App never solicits, promotes, or encourages criminal activity.”
According to The Associated Press, a number of young individuals interviewed in Hong Kong said they downloaded the app in the interest of avoiding the protests altogether — believing their youth and manner of dress might subject them to police scrutiny and arrest in certain parts of the city.
As protests have grown since their inception in April, the tension has broken out in full-scale violence, with protesters setting fire to shops and police beating and tear-gassing protesters.
Here are some of the scenes of violence on the streets of Hong Kong today. For the first time since protests began, police shot a demonstrator — an 18-year-old — with a live round as bloody and sustained clashes broke out across the city.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 1, 2019
— Leo Ball (@leoball727) October 6, 2019
One protester was shot with a live round in clashes earlier this week.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.