Apple removed an app Hong Kong protesters used to track police movements from its app store, saying it violated rules because it was used to ambush police.
The US tech giant was under fire from China over the app, with the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper calling the app “poisonous” and decrying what it said was Apple’s complicity in helping Hong Kong protesters.
Apple rejected the crowdsourcing app, HKmap.live, but reversed course last week.
Apple said in a statement it began an immediate investigation after “many concerned customers in Hong Kong” contacted the company about the app and Apple found it endangered law enforcement and residents.
“The app displays police locations and we verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau the app was used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety and criminals used it to victimise residents in areas where there is no law enforcement,” the statement said.
Apple did not comment further and the app’s developer did not immediately comment on the removal. Hong Kong police had no immediate comment.
The app was removed from Apple’s app store globally but continued to work for users who downloaded it in Hong Kong, Reuters found. A web version was still viewable on iPhones.
On Tuesday, the People’s Daily said Apple did not have a sense of right and wrong and ignored the truth. Making the app available on Apple’s Hong Kong App Store was “opening the door” to violent protesters in the former British colony, the newspaper wrote.
Asked for comment after the People’s Daily piece, HKmap.live’s developer, said the app consolidated information in the public domain, such as groups on Telegram, another service protestors used to communicate.
“Protest is part of our freedom of speech and I don’t think the application is illegal in HK,” the developer told Reuters in a direct message.
Under Apple’s rules and policies, apps meeting its standards to appear in the App Store have been removed after release if they facilitated illegal activity or threatened public safety.
In 2011, Apple modified its app store to remove apps listing locations for drunken driving checkpoints not previously published by law enforcement officials.
Word of the HKmap.live app’s removal spread quickly in Hong Kong.
“Does the entire world have to suck up to the garbage Communist Party?” commentator Yip Lou Jie said in an online forum, LIHKG, used by protestors in Hong Kong.