Skip to main content

Tim Cook defends removal of Hong Kong protest app from the App Store

Apple has pulled the controversial app, which displays the location of police, from its app store following a critical op-ed in the People’s Daily, a Chinese state-owned newspaper. Apple CEO Tim Cook has defended the decision in an internal memo.

According to a report from Reuters, Apple based the decision on “credible information” from Hong Kong police, as well as from Apple itself. Reportedly, the app was being used “maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present.” That constitutes a violation of App Store guidelines, according to the company.

When Apple originally removed the app, an Apple spokesperson stated that the app had been used to “target and ambush police,” endangering public safety as a result.

“We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place to discover apps. We have learned that an app,, has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong. Many concerned customers in Hong Kong have contacted us about this app and we immediately began investigating it. 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. This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store.”

The developer of has taken to Twitter to publicly disagree with Apple’s decision, stating there is no evidence the app endangers residents and police in Hong Kong.

1. We disagree @Apple and @hkpoliceforce 's claim that HKmap App endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong.#HKmap #HKmaplive #HK #Censorship

— 全港抗爭即時地圖 (@hkmaplive) October 10, 2019

At this time, the website is still accessible from iPhone web browsers. isn’t the only app to have been affected by Apple’s purge of pro-democracy apps. News app Quartz is also reporting it has been removed from the Chinese app store following alleged complaints from the Chinese government about Quartz’s coverage of the protests.

The controversy stems from an op-ed published in the Chinese state-owned newspaper, the People’s Daily. It launched an attack against Apple, warning the technology giant about the possible consequences of allowing the app, as well as other media that allegedly support independence for Hong Kong, onto its app store.

As reported by AFP, the op-ed in The People’s Daily takes aim at a couple of targets, including the NBA, but puts Apple firmly in its sights later in the piece. Accusing Apple of being an “accomplice to the rioters,” the article went on to warn that “Apple has to think about the consequences of its unwise and reckless decision.” That decision refers to allowing an app that supplies information about police activity and protests around the Hong Kong area., showing live information about protests and police activity in Hong Kong. The app is used by protesters, and was recently removed from the Apple App Store. Image used with permission by copyright holder

The People’s Daily takes a particular stance on this, claiming the app allows rioters to avoid police and commit violent acts in other areas. This is a description of the app rejected by the app’s developer, who took to Twitter to point out that the app actually helps the police by highlighting “blue flag areas” — those areas where the police have temporarily deemed it illegal to assemble.

Read this if you don't know how "illegal assembly" works in #HK

Just like Waze, people get notified of traffic cam ahead, so they can slow down. No one is breaking any law.

— 全港抗爭即時地圖 (@hkmaplive) October 2, 2019

It isn’t just that The People’s Daily has an issue with — it refers to the app as only being the tip of the iceberg. It also mentions an independence-supporting song being allowed onto the Apple Music store — most likely referencing the song Glory to Hong Kong, which has become something of an anthem for the protesters. According to the piece, the song was removed from the store before being allowed back on again.

This is unlikely to be the last we hear of the technological sphere mixing with the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Professional Hearthstone player Chung Ng Wai was banned from the Hearthstone Grandmasters competition for using his post-match interview to support the protesters in Hong Kong. The Chinese government was also accused of running disinformation campaigns through Facebook, Twitter, and even YouTube.

Updated on October 10, 2019: Apple has pulled the from the App Store, and Tim Cook has defended the decision. 

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Jansen
Mark Jansen is an avid follower of everything that beeps, bloops, or makes pretty lights. He has a degree in Ancient &…
Sorry, but allowing third-party iPhone app stores is a bad idea
Apple Arcade page on the Apple Store as seen on the iPhone 14 Pro

Apple has always been known to have tight control over both its hardware and software, such as the iPhone and the iOS that powers it. However, it seems that the European Union continues to get more and more involved in regulating Apple’s most popular device, the iPhone.

So far, the EU has set a deadline for Apple to replace the Lightning port with USB-C by 2024, and more recently, it raised the possibility of opening up iOS to allow for sideloading and alternative app stores from third parties. Though this may seem like a good thing at first, I’m not so sure that’s entirely true. At the very least, it will cause some complications.
The App Store is a secure and trusted place

Read more
Apple may do the unthinkable — allow third-party iPhone app stores
App Store displayed on an iPhone 14 Pro against a pink background

Ever since 2008, Apple has only allowed its own App Store on the iPhone. In the past, if you wanted alternative digital storefronts, you’d have to jailbreak your device. But in response to impending regulations from the European Union, Apple may be allowing alternative app stores on the iPhone and iPad in the near future — potentially as soon as iOS 17 in 2023.

According to a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, this will be the very first time that Apple will allow third-party app stores on the iPhone. It seems that Apple is already dedicating a “significant amount of resources to the companywide endeavor.”

Read more
My favorite phone of 2022 didn’t come out this year — it’s from 2021
iPhone 13 Pro Max in hand.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, iPhone 14 Pro, OnePlus 10 Pro, Pixel 7 Pro, and many more – 2022 saw the release of plenty of amazing flagship smartphones. The iPhone 14 Pro did away with the notch, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra spoiled me with its industry-leading 10x zoom. Google finally got the hardware right with the Pixel 7 Pro, and Samsung made enough refinements to the Fold 4 for it to become my primary device.

But none of these could make the cut as my favorite smartphone of 2022. None of the 2022 flagships lasted as long as my iPhone 13 Pro Max. In fact, I had to charge the Galaxy S22 Ultra twice a day to keep my SIM in it.

Read more