As the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong drag on, confrontations with the police are becoming more and more violent. Protesters are demanding the preservation of civil liberties as the city state reverts to Chinese control, and in response police are resorting to tear gas, water cannons, and, in some cases, live ammunition. An app call HKmap.live was ostensibly meant to keep people safe by alerting them of real-time conflicts. According to NPR, the app aggregated social media information to plot points on a map that showed where protests were happening, and where police were using tear gas. Now, Apple has responded to demands from the Chinese government and removed the app from all of its platforms.
When the app was initially submitted to Apple earlier this month, the company rejected it, then revised its decision a few days later, before reversing itself once again. In a statement, Apple claimed that the app violates its terms of service by allowing people to break the law:
We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place to discover apps. We have learned that an app, HKmap.live, has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong. Many concerned customers in Hong Kong have contacted us about this app and we immediately began investigating it. The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement. This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store.
On Tuesday, not long before Apple chose to take down HKmap, the state-owned People's Daily published an op-ed criticizing Apple for allowing the app to remain available, titled, "Is Apple helping HK rioters engage in more violence?" The op-ed read, in part, "Letting poisonous software have its way is a betrayal of the Chinese people’s feelings."
The creators of the app wholly reject Apple's characterization, arguing that they never encouraged criminal activity and all the data the app uses is publicly available anyway. On Twitter, the developers wrote, "We once believed the App rejection is simply a bureaucratic f up, but now it is clearly a political decision to suppress freedom and human right in #HongKong."
As The Verge points out, Apple has an inconsistent track record with enforcing its App Store's terms of service. The website Quartz, which has produced a lot of coverage that has been critical of China's handling of the protests, had its app banned from Apple's platform in Hong Kong and the mainland.
On March 15, when a white supremacist livestreamed his mass shootings of a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, a country with one of the world's lowest gun homicide rates was stunned to silence. But only momentarily. The deaths of 51 New Zealanders, mostly Muslim immigrants, would not be met with a tepid countermeasure but a swift, clear response. Sean Flynn reports from Christchurch about the day of the massacre—and the days that followed.
Originally Appeared on GQ