On Thursday, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers called out Apple and its CEO Tim Cook for the company’s decision to remove an app from its store that allowed Hong Kong protesters to trace the movements of law enforcement.
“An authoritarian regime is violently suppressing its own citizens who are fighting for democracy,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said. “Apple just sided with them.”
Earlier this month, Apple rejected the app, HKmap.live, from the App Store, but it reversed that decision only a few days later and made it available for download. As of Thursday, it’s been taken out of the store, basically reversing the original reversal.
“Apple assured me last week that their initial decision to ban this app was a mistake,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) tweeted. “Looks like the Chinese censors have had a word with them since. Who is really running Apple? Tim Cook or Beijing?”
Other Republicans like Sens. Rick Scott (FL) and Tom Cotton (AR) voiced similar sentiments, calling for Apple to stand up to “Communist China.”
”Apple is yet another capitalist who’ll sell rope to communists to hang us,” Cotton said.
In a statement explaining the company’s decision to remove the app, Apple said that it had learned that it was “used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong.” For that reason, Apple said that it violated its rules and local laws and had to be removed.
The developers of HKmap responded to removal saying, “HKmap App never solicits, promotes, or encourages criminal activity. HKmap App consolidates information from user and public sources, e.g. live news stream, Facebook and Telegram.”
Over the past week, lawmakers who are typically tough on China, like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Wyden, and Hawley have all put out statements condemning American companies and institutions for banning speech unfavorable toward Beijing.
On Monday, Blizzard banned a professional Hearthstone player for voicing support for the Hong Kong protests, and China’s state broadcaster said it would stop showing Houston Rockets games after a team manager tweeted, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” The tweet has since been deleted.