On Thursday, human rights campaigners accused Apple of caving in to political pressure from China and enabling state censorship by removing the app. He also notes that there have been, "numerous cases of innocent passerby [sic] in the neighborhood injured by the Hong Kong Police Force's excessive force in crowd dispersal situations". China is also the primary manufacturer of Apple products such as iPhones, it seems extremely unlikely that the firm would leave behind its vast network of suppliers and assemblers who build hundreds of millions of iPhones for the company every year.
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Many companies worry about offending Chinese consumers, or falling foul of the government's sensibilities, because it could affect sales in a huge market. When taken together, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are collectively Apple's second largest market after the USA, according to Bloomberg News, providing a clear financial incentive for the technology company to do the bidding of Beijing.
Although the rule established by Google can be open to interpretation, most critics believe that Google's actions are a lot more reasonable than Apple's. To do business in China, the company adopts to local dictates, distasteful as they may be to its CEO Tim Cook, an outspoken gay rights advocate and privacy crusader. But that could change in mid-December, when the Trump administration has promised to expand import duties on more consumer electronics.
Apple isn't alone in defering to China, however.
Apple's traditional focus on hardware rather than data meant the company had been positioned differently to its Silicon Valley peers.
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A Google spokesman said "The Revolution Of Our Times" app recently pulled from its app store, which lets users role play as Hong Kong protesters, violated a long-standing policy "prohibiting developers from capitalizing on sensitive events, such as attempting to make money from serious ongoing conflicts or tragedies through a game". The app used crowdsourcing to track the location of protestors and police officers in real time.
"This use put the app in violation of Hong Kong law", Cook wrote. It took the app off again on Wednesday-one day after the Chinese state newspaper People's Daily bashed Apple for helping Hong Kong protestors "engage in more violence".
The Hong Kong Jockey Club said it would close eight off-course betting branches and shut another 20 early on Saturday to protect its employees. A group of protesters plan a "face mask party" tonight.
But, the protests have grown into a broader battle over self-rule. The National Basketball Association, which has been pursuing its own expansion into China, has muzzled its own employees after an executive with the Houston Rockets drew the ire of Beijing by posting a Tweet in support of the Hong Kong protesters. A cohort of police wearing riot helmets and banging their plastic shields followed some distance behind, clearing road blocks left by the march.
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley has been contributing heavily to the debate in a tweet on Tuesday. "They all do it", one showrunner who was not affiliated with Apple told BuzzFeed News.
Apple's tip toeing around the Chinese government isn't unusual in Hollywood. "In the Apple Music Store in Hong Kong, there was also a song advocating 'Hong Kong independence.' Such a song was once removed from the music store and has resurrected", wrote the editorial. The emoji could still be found if users searched for it. China has sought to tighten control over VPNs, which create encrypted links between computers and can be used to see blocked websites that the government has deemed subversive.