As if sinking bags before a flood, Apple was well prepared to face setbacks over the decision to remove an app used by Hong Kong protesters.
But the firm's carefully worded statement giving justification has left China viewers, politicians ̵
"Apple's decision to cave to Communist China's demands is unacceptable," tweeted Rick Scott, a Republican senator for Florida.
"Making a surplus of human rights and the dignity of the people of Hong Kong is wrong. No one about, ands or buts about it."
Late on Wednesday, the company began to orient journalists on the go, expressing its view that HKmap .live was "used in ways that jeopardize law enforcement and citizens."  On Thursday morning, Apple chief Tim Cook sent an email into employees' inboxes.
"There is no great respect for that work you make every day that I want to share the way we went to make this decision, "he wrote.
"Over the past few days, we received credible information from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as from users in Hong Kong, that the app was used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and properties where no police are present This use violated the Hong Kong law.
"Similarly, widespread abuse clearly violates our App Store guidelines that exclude personal injury."
Long time Apple commentator John Gruber wrote about Mr Cook's email: "I can't remember an Apple memo or statement that crumbles so quickly during review. "
& # 39; Innocent Passers & # 39;
Apple has so far not provided any additional information about the alleged incidents. Charles Mok, a Hong Kong lawmaker representing the IT industry in the territory, posted a letter to Mr Cook on Twitter.
"There are many cases of innocent passersby in the neighborhood harmed by the Kong Kong Police Force's excessive force in crowdfunding operations," he wrote.
"The user-generated information shared with HKmap.live actually helps residents avoid areas where pedestrians not involved in any criminal activity may be subjected to police brutality, as many human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have observed."  Mr Mok went on to claim that users on major social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter, also share information about police activity – but were not kept to the same standard.
"We Hong Kongers will definitely be careful if Apple chooses to maintain his commitment to free expression and other basic human rights, or become an accomplice to Chinese censorship and oppression. "
Apple has not responded.
Censored South Park
Apple's decision comes against a backdrop of major US companies that are seen as bowing to political pressure from Beijing.
During the last This week, the NBA roared around a tweet from a team leader supporting the protests, while video games publishing Activision Blizzard banned e-sports competitor Ng Wai "Blitzchung" Chung for showing his support for the move.
And Google removed a role-playing game called "Revolution of Our Times" from the app store after presuming that it violated the guidelines for depicting "sensitive events" (the player plays the role of a protester in Hong Kong). According to the Wall Street Journal, Hong Kong authorities had contacted Google with concern about that app – even though the company said they decided to take action before any communication took place.
However, a bend of the trend came via Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, the company behind the multiplayer game Fortnite online.
"Epic supports everyone's right to speak freely," he wrote on Twitter in response to a question about players voicing support for Hong Kong protesters. Chinese technology giant Tencent owns 40% of the company.
"Chinese players of Fortnite are free to criticize the United States or criticize the Epic just as much as everyone else," Sweeney said.
In characteristic proper timing, an episode of Comedy Central & # 39; s South Park earlier this month led Chinese sensors to "erase virtually all clips, episodes, and online discussions about the show from Chinese streaming services, social media, and even fan sites, ”according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The episode featured four of the show's main characters working on a film script that is constantly being changed so that it could be distributed in China.
"Well, you know what they say," says the film's director in the show, "You have to lower your ideals of freedom if you want to suck on the hot teat in China."
In Apple's case, that translates into revenues on track to exceed $ 40 billion this year – almost a fifth of the company's total global sales. Apple's dependence on Chinese production means that the relationship goes far deeper than just local sales. The company has 10,000 direct employees in the company; The economy around Apple's presence in China is responsible for around 5m jobs.
What happens next depends on the degree to which China feels its hard stance is working – and there are indications that officials are on guard. According to reports in the New York Times, Beijing is concerned that the actions are drawing more attention to the protests and damaging the country's position on the global stage, creating even more tension in relations with the United States as trade talks restart in Washington.
The councils have also raised concerns that China has few qualifications when it comes to making demands on companies based in the communist state, as well as those who just want to do business there.
"What would Huawei do if they were the dominant 5G provider for a country and the country's leaders said the wrong thing?" Elliott Zaagman who covers Chinese business and investment,
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