While Golden Frog and Express VPN have expressed disappointment in China’s ruling, and vowed to start a legal battle on Apple’s behalf, Tim Cook, Apple’s boss has defended his company’s decision to comply with the Chinese government’s autocratic demand to remove VPN software from the App store.
After Apple succumbed to pressure by removing several VPN apps, it faced criticisms from Express VPN and others and was accused of “aiding Chinese censorship efforts”. This accusation led to a comparison between Apple’s compliance with the Chinese’s rulings and its negation in assisting the FBI unlock an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino terrorists.
In his response to this accusation, Mr. Cook said:
“They are very different. In the case of the US the law in the US supported us. I was very clear. In the case of China, the law is also very clear there. Like we would if the US changed the law here, we’d have to abide by them in both cases”.
The Apple boss reiterated that he obviously disagreed with China’s rulings but had to act in accordance with the country’s laws. “We would obviously rather not remove the apps. But like we do in other countries, we follow the law wherever we do business”, Tim Cook said.
VPN is of great essence in China because it helps bypass internet censorship. Many people in China use VPNs to get around the Great Firewall of China and gain access to the entire internet and allows privacy by hiding browsing activities. For instance, a person in China can access blocked sites like Facebook and Twitter with the aid of a VPN. However, the great firewall has apparently interfered with VPNs.
Nevertheless, Tim Cook said he is hopeful that the restrictions in China will decrease with time. He said:
“We believe in engaging with governments even when we disagree. This particular case, we are hopeful that overtime, the restrictions we’re seeing are lessened, because innovation really requires freedom to collaborate and communicate.”
To operate a VPN service in China, the company must have the government’s consent. As reported by the BBC, “those without permission, such as ExpressVPN, have been singled out for removal from Apple’s app store”. ExpressVPN said in a blog post:
“We’re disappointed in this government, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date. We are troubled to see Apple aiding censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties.”
China is not alone in the internet restriction saga as Russia has recently passed a bill to prohibit the use of VPN and other technologies that allows access to restricted websites.