Apple has confirmed to The New York Times that it recently removed the paper’s app from the Chinese version of the App Store. The removal was made at the request of the Chinese government, which began blocking the Times’ website in 2012 after the paper published a series of articles on the “billions in hidden riches” amassed by the family of the then-head of state, Wen Jiabao.
A spokesperson for Apple, Fred Sainz, told the Times: “For some time now the New York Times app has not been permitted to display content to most users in China and we have been informed that the app is in violation of local regulations. As a result, the app must be taken down off the China App Store. When this situation changes, the App Store will once again offer the New York Times app for download in China.”
Sainz would not explain what these “local regulations” were exactly, but it’s likely the request was made under new laws introduced in June last year. The legislation, which governs “mobile internet applications,” forbids apps from “publishing content in violation of Chinese law.” However, other apps from Western news sources, including the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, are still available in the Chinese App Store.
Complying to these sorts of requests is seen by many tech companies as the price of doing business in China. Although Apple’s sales in the country slumped by 30 percent in 2016, the country remains extremely important for the iPhone-maker. Not only as market for its products, but as the site of Apple’s biggest factories.
In December, the Times detailed a web of tax breaks and subsidies worth billions of dollars that make one particular iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, central China, so worthwhile to both Apple and Chinese manufacturing giant Foxconn. The Times said it learned that its app would be removed from the Chinese App Store at the same time that it was contacting Apple and the Chinese government with questions about the story.
A spokesperson for the Times, Eileen Murphy, said the paper had asked Apple to reconsider its decision to remove the app: “The request by the Chinese authorities to remove our apps is part of their wider attempt to prevent readers in China from accessing independent news coverage by The New York Times of that country, coverage which is no different from the journalism we do about every other country in the world.”