A group of US lawmakers has recently issued an official letter condemning Apple's recent decision to take down an application used by Hong Kong protesters, HKMap.live, from its app store following a request from the Chinese government, calling on the Cupertino-based company "in the strongest terms" to alter its attitude towards the Chinese market. The letter was signed by representatives from both sides of the aisle in a rare act of unity among US lawmakers.
The group of legislators, which includes Democrats Ron Wyden, Tom Malinowski, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Republicans Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, and Mike Gallagher, has said that Apple should shift its focus from attempts to preserve access to the lucrative Chinese market to "values" that it ought to stand up for. The tech giant hasn't responded to the critical letter yet.
HKMap.live, which has been "widely used" by Hong Kong protesters to locate where police forces are deployed, is not the only app that Apple has "censored", the US lawmakers claimed in their letter. According to them, the Cupertino-based company has already taken down over 2,200 apps at the request of Beijing. Among them are virtual private networking (VPN) services, which can be used to access content blocked from Chinese networks.
Apple removed HKMap.live from their store after complaints from the Chinese government. According to the app’s developers, the company took action due to the program being used "to target and ambush police".
Criticism of Activision Blizzard’s Actions
The same bipartisan group, with the exception of Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton, issued a similar letter criticising the gaming company Activision Blizzard’s decision to punish Ng Wai "Blitzchung" Chung, a cyber athlete who expressed support for the Hong Kong protesters in the middle of a Hearthstone championship match. The lawmakers accused Blizzard of becoming one of the US companies to have succumbed to Beijing's alleged pressure to "stifle free speech".
JUST IN: @AOC, Senator @marcorubio, Senator @RonWyden, congressman Gallagher and Malinowski have signed a joint letter directed to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick denouncing and condemning Blizzard's punishment of Blitzchung pic.twitter.com/kIaWriif7m— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 18, 2019
The company withheld Blitzchung's winnings in the championship and banned him from participating in new ones for 12 months for violating the rules by making a political statement during a match. The company has since eased the player’s punishment, returning his prize money and reducing the ban to six months, but that apparently didn't stop the members of Congress from issuing their letter. Ng Wai Chung, in turn, promised to be "more careful" in the future.
Protests in Hong Kong
Protests have been rocking Hong Kong for months due to the central government's attempts to enable extraditions to mainland China for certain criminal cases. The protests, which often descend into clashes with police, haven't ceased, even though the government has rescinded the controversial piece of legislation.
Beijing has denounced the protest-incited violence, which has left many people on both sides injured and led to numerous acts of vandalism. The Chinese government has also dismissed criticism from foreign states over the protests, warning them against meddling in China's internal affairs.