Apple Inc on Thursday removed an app that helped pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong track police movements, saying it was used to ambush law enforcement, AFP reported. The move came a day after the United States technology giant was severely criticised by Chinese state media for allowing the software. Apple had initially rejected the crowdsourcing app, HKmap.live, earlier this month but then changed its decision and approved it in its app store last week, according to The New York Times.
Apple said in a statement that it had begun an immediate investigation after “many concerned customers in Hong Kong” contacted the company about the app and Apple found it had endangered law enforcement and residents. “We have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police,” it said. “Criminals have used it to victimise residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” it added.
On Wednesday, the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper had called the app “poisonous” and accused it of serving as an “escort” for “rioters” in Hong Kong.
In another separate development, Apple also removed the Quartz news app from its app store in China after complaints from Chinese authorities.
Quartz Chief Executive Zach Seward told The Verge: “We abhor this kind of government censorship of the internet, and have great coverage of how to get around such bans around the world.”
The protests had initially been organised to oppose a bill that would have allowed extraditions to China. They have now evolved into a backlash against the city’s government and its political masters in Beijing. The protestors have accused China of tightening its grip on the region and throttling democracy.
Last week, Hong Kong invoked colonial-era emergency laws and announced that face masks would be banned at demonstrations. The move came after months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests, and days after a pro-democracy protestor was injured after being shot by a police officer with a live bullet. This was the first time a protestor was shot during the unrest that has rocked Hong Kong for several months. Till then, the police forces had used rubber bullets and tear gas.
Earlier this week, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she would not rule out accepting Chinese government help to tackle pro-democracy protestors if the “situation becomes so bad”.
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