Apple withdraws mapping app that lets Hong Kong protesters track police

By Yana Berman

Tech giant bows to pressure over ‘threat to public safety’

Apple has withdrawn from its App Store a mapping app that reportedly allowed Hong Kong protesters to track the location of police in the city, The New York Times reports.

According to an official statement quoted by the NYT, Apple decided after consulting the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app was a threat to public safety because it helped protesters “to target and ambush police”.

Protests have raged in the former British colony since June. They were sparked by proposals to allow extradition to mainland China, which critics feared could undermine the city's judicial independence and endanger dissidents.

The app had provoked heavy criticism in the official Chinese media. The People’s Daily, official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, condemned Apple for helping the demonstrators. It called the app “poisonous,” and said its availability in the App Store was a “betrayal of the Chinese people’s feelings”.

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Apple has a huge presence in China. But it has been reported that the company is considering moving 15-30% of its production capacity away from the country because of growing tension with the US amid the continuing trade war between the two superpowers.

China, with its 1.4 billion consumers, is one of the largest markets for international companies which often find themselves obliged to follow its strict policies.

American, Delta, and United Airlines had to delete references to Taiwan as a separate country after widespread criticism. And the American clothing giant GAP had to apologize to China after using a map of the country that did not include Tibet and Taiwan.

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