In brief: Apple has long had a reputation for kowtowing to the Chinese government, and that isn’t going to improve after it removed a Hong Kong protest app and the Quartz news app from its App Store.
Last week, HKmap, a crowdsourced map app that shared data on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests and police activity in the area, was rejected from the App Store because it “facilitates, enables, and encourages an activity that is not legal.” But Apple quickly reversed its decision, approving the app for sale in Hong Kong.
Unsurprisingly, Apple was criticized by Chinese state media for allowing HKmap onto its store, claiming it allowed “rioters in Hong Kong to go on violent acts,” and adding that Apple has to "think about the consequences of its unwise and reckless decision."
Now, the app has been delisted, with Apple writing it “has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong,” though its developers say there is no evidence supporting this claim. They added that apps such as Waze, which uses crowdsourcing so users can avoid traffic cameras and police, are allowed on the App Store.
Separately, news organization Quartz told The Verge that its app had been removed from the Chinese version of the App Store. The removal is thought to be over its coverage of the Hong Kong protests and comes after complaints from the Chinese government.
Quartz says it received a notice from Apple informing it the app “includes content that is illegal in China.”
China is a lucrative market for Apple—its third largest—which could explain why Cupertino doesn’t want to risk incurring the wrath of the country's government and being frozen out. Back in 2017, it removed VPN apps from China’s app store, and it recently removed the Taiwan flag emoji from iOS keyboards in Hong Kong.