Apple can uphold basic human rights or become a Beijing accomplice: HK lawmaker

Charles Mok says HKmap.live is used by innocents to avoid police violence.

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Image: Estial Photography

Member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, Charles Mok, the representative of its Information Technology functional constituency, has called on Apple to lift its ban on HKmap.live.

Apple removed the app from its store on Thursday, stating that the app could be used to ambush police.

Writing to Apple, Mok said the company has the ability to "uphold its commitment to free expression and other basic human rights, or become an accomplice for Chinese censorship and oppression".

Mok said the app, which crowdsources information to allow people in Hong Kong to know where police are active, helps people avoid police brutality.

See: China has Apple by the iPhones

"HKmap.live helps HK residents, journalists, tourists etc. identify 'danger zones' and avoid being hurt by tear gas, rubber bullets, baton, bean-bag rounds, and water cannon that the Hong Kong police claims to be 'minimum force', and get real-time updates of public transport, who rely on the app to avoid being harassed and beaten up by police for no reason," Mok wrote.

"If sharing information on a real-time basis equates to encouraging criminal activity ... the same standard should also be applied to review social media apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Telegram, and Instagram, where people share similar information in real-time."

Responding to news of its decision to ban HKmap.live, CEO Tim Cook reportedly sent an email to Apple employees backing the ban.

"The app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence," Cook reportedly said.

"We built the App Store to be a safe and trusted place for every user ... In this case, we thoroughly reviewed [the facts], and we believe this decision best protects our users."

The app is still available on the Google Play Store, and is viewable through its website.

Cupertino initially dragged its feet last week in approving the app, before abruptly reversing course and removing it on Thursday.

Two years ago, Apple ripped the VPN apps from its Chinese app store.

Apple makes around $3 billion in revenue from China each month.

Earlier this week, Quartz reported Apple had removed the ability for users in Hong Kong to type the Taiwanese flag emoji in iOS 13.1. Two days later, the masthead found itself on the end of a banning, after Beijing asked for the Quartz app to be removed from the app store for mainland China. Apple complied.

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