news 4 days ago

Apple Withdraws Controversial Hong Kong Protest App

Variety — Patrick Frater

Apple has removed from its online stores the controversial HKmap.Live app, which had been used to show the locations of protests and police operations in Hong Kong. The move was made on Thursday, local time, barely a day after Apple had been criticized in mainland Chinese media for hosting the app.

A statement from Apple said that it had been contacted by “many concerned customers in Hong Kong” and that it had begun an investigation. It said the app, which uses crowdsourced information, “had endangered law enforcement and residents.” Apple is understood to have previously rejected the app, but reversed that decision, and began hosting it from Oct. 4.

The anonymous developer of the HKmap.Live app took to the Telegram messaging app on Thursday to post the text of a review by Apple that explained the tech giant’s decision. “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,” it said. The text was also used by Apple in its media statement.

The Reuters news agency said that the app continued to work for users who had previously downloaded it in Hong Kong. A web version was also still viewable on iPhones.

Protests in Hong Kong against the local government’s proposed extradition bill began in June, and although the bill has been withdrawn, the protests have broadened into calls for the removal of the territory’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, and for the establishment of representative democracy.

After 18 weeks of stalemate, there have been many outbreaks of violence on the streets of Hong Kong, and discussions of the subject have fueled pro-Beijing and anti-Beijing recriminations.

Businesses have been politicized by both camps. Using state-controlled media, the Chinese government has criticized businesses including the Cathay Pacific airline and MTR, Hong Kong’s subway operator. Both rapidly backtracked. Pro-democracy protesters have called for a boycott of Maxims, the catering giant that operates the Starbucks and Yoshinoya restaurant franchises in Hong Kong, after Annie Wu Suk-ching, the daughter of its founder, labeled protesters as “rioters” at a United Nations conference.

In the past few days, both the U.S.’s National Basketball Association and animated show “South Park” have been drawn into the fray.

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.