Apple Denies Privacy and Freedom on Expression to iOS Users in Tibet

Apple is the largest corporation in the world and approximately ⅓ of its consumer base is in China, Tibet, East Turkistan, Southern Mongolia, and Hong Kong. 

Apple claims to care about freedom of expression and access to information for all of its users, yet routinely removes critical privacy, communication, and news apps from the App Store used by people living under Chinese rule. Sometimes Apple removes apps in response to demands by the Chinese government and sometimes they proactively pull down apps they think the CCP will reject. App takedowns include news apps like the New York Times and more than 1,000 Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). 

Apple’s Dangerous Double Standard for iOS Users Living Under the CCP!

Since 2017, Apple has removed a shocking 60 apps. As a result, iOS users in the Chinese market are even more at risk of state surveillance and cut off from information not approved by the CCP. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), for example, help people be more anonymous and have free and open access to the internet. For people living under authoritarian rule, where surveillance and the risk of imprisonment is constant, these apps can be a matter of life and death.
Apple’s collusion with Chinese authorities violates human rights standards for businesses laid out by the United Nations in which it states that companies must not violate the human rights of people using or making their products.

After an historic victory stopping Google from creating a censored search engine for users in the Chinese market, an empowered coalition of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hongkongers, Tawainese and Chinese rights activists, corporate accountability organizations, and technology groups began an ongoing campaign to hold Apple accountable for its collusion with the CCPs human rights abuses.

The coalition wrote letters to Apple execs, made videos, held protests, had more than 136,600 people sign a petition, and submitted a shareholder resolution on freedom of expression and access to information. In February 2021, 40.6% of shareholders agreed that Apple needs to do better and be more transparent on these fundamental human rights. As a direct result, Apple published its first-ever Human Rights Policy which included access to information and freedom of expression! We did that!

This was a huge victory to be celebrated. However, words on paper do not protect iOS users in Tibet, China, Hong Kong, and East Turkistan from the brutal surveillance of the CCP, especially when the policies are not implemented. And especially as Apple continues to remove life-saving privacy and encrypted communication apps from its China App Store.

So we are keeping the pressure on …