Apple has pulled an app that tracked the movements of Hong Kong police through crowdsourced data, after it became the latest company to be put under pressure by China this week.
The creators of HKmap.Live said the app was pulled after Apple found it was in violation of local laws and company guidelines.
It shows real-time locations of Hong Kong police vehicles, riot and special tactical police and locations where tear gas has been fired, as well as directions of where protests should move. Information is crowdsourced by users through a Telegram bot and similar channels.
The app has been available for less than a week after making its debut on 5 October, according to the South China Morning Post.
In a statement Apple said: “We have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app [HKmap.Live] has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimise 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.”
On Twitter, HKmap.Live said it never solicits or promotes criminal activity and its moderators vote down content that appeared to do that. It claimed Apple’s decision was “clearly a political decision to suppress freedom and human rights in #Hong Kong”.
The removal of the app follows an editorial in China’s People’s Daily on Wednesday that accused Apple of “protecting rioters” with its “poisonous app”.
Google, meanwhile, has removed the role-playing game “Revolution of Our Times” recreating the Hong Kong protests from its store this week after only three days on the market. The developer told Hong Kong Free Press that he had not received any warning from Google before the app was suspended for violating Google’s “sensitive events policy.”
Apple is the fourth American company to come under fire from Beijing this week over the Hong Kong protests, which have entered their fifth month.
The NBA sports league found itself in hot water after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for the Hong Kong protests. The Houston Rockets is one of the most popular NBA teams in China as it is the former team of Chinese basketball giant Yao Ming.
Luxury retailer Tiffany & Co. meanwhile was forced to pull an ad campaign that evoked similar imagery to a Hong Kong protest movement. The ad showed a woman covering her eye, something protesters have done after police shot a female protester in the right eye.
American gaming company Blizzard Entertainment has also faced backlash and a possible boycott after it banned a player for making public comments supporting the Hong Kong protests during a tournament.
The removal of HKMap.Live, however, is likely to have little impact on the protests because previously downloaded versions of the app still appear to be functioning on iOS.
A browser version is still available online, as is an Android version of the app, which has been available for download in the Google Play store since 18 September.
Many protesters also prefer to use encrypted app Telegram to share police movements, where channels share similar information in real time to users.