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China Blasts Apple for Police Tracking App Used in Hong Kong Protests

Available on the App Store, the app relies on crowdsourced information to track the location of police officers.

by Lia Savillo
09 October 2019, 11:01am

Photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash

As pro-democracy protests continue in Hong Kong, Chinese state media is placing blame on tech giant Apple for its indirect involvement in the rallies.

A commentary published on the Chinese Communist Party’s official publication People’s Daily yesterday blasted Apple for offering an app (which they did not name) that allows protesters to track police activity around the city, Channel News Asia reported.

The opinion piece was written by “Bolan Ping,” an apparent pen name that translates to “calming the waves,” the South China Morning Post reported. It accused Apple of protecting rioters and enabling illegal behaviour.

"Letting poisonous software have its way is a betrayal of the Chinese people's feelings," it said.

It also said that offering the app in the Hong Kong App Store at this time was "opening the door" to violent protesters.

The opinion piece was republished by numerous other mainland Chinese outlets.

Hong Kong protesters use the HKMap.live to follow police activity and plan their next moves.

The programme's developer told the SCMP that Apple had previously rejected the app but reversed its decision on Friday and made the programme available for download from the iOS App Store on Saturday.

The app relies on crowdsourced information to track the location of police presence in the city, alerting users to police vehicles, armed officers, and incidents of violence. It also has a website, which displays hotspots on a map of the city that is continuously updated as users report incidents.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests are now on their fourth month. In an attempt to control them, the government has enacted a law that makes it illegal for protesters to wear masks. However, this only angered people more. To further control protests, a Hong Kong lawmaker said on Monday that they are considering an internet ban. Most of the protests are organised by the youth in messaging apps.

The backlash against Apple comes just days after two other companies came under fire in China. Yesterday, a professional Hearthstone player was suspended by video game company Blizzard for declaring his support for Hong Kong protesters. Meanwhile, the NBA is caught in a controversy after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for the protests.