BEIJING (AP) – Apple removed a smartphone app that allows Hong Kong activists to report police movements from its online store on Thursday after an official Chinese newspaper accused the company of facilitating illegal behavior.
Apple Inc. became the latest company to come under pressure to take Beijing's side against anti-government protesters when Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said on Wednesday that the app HKmap.live "facilitates illegal behavior." The newspaper asked: "Does Apple correct Hong Kong riot?"
Apple said in a statement that HKmap.live was removed because it "has been used to target and assault police" and "threaten public safety." It said it violated local law and Apple guidelines.
"We have confirmed with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and assault police, threaten public safety and criminals have used it to hit residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement , says the Apple statement. "This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we've removed it from the App Store."
The Hong Kong demonstrations were initiated over a proposed extradition law and expanded to include other complaints and demands for greater democracy.
Activists complain Beijing and Hong Kong leaders erode the autonomy and Western civil liberties promised to the former British colony when it returned to China in 1997.
Criticism of Apple followed government attacks that started last weekend at the National Basketball Association over a comment by the Houston Rockets manager in support of the protesters. China's state television has canceled broadcasts of NBA games.
People's Daily warned Apple could damage its reputation with Chinese consumers.
"Apple has to think deeply," the magazine said.
Trademarks targeted earlier in Beijing have been subjected to campaigns by the entirely state-controlled press to drive away consumers or interfere with investigations by tax authorities and other regulators.
China has long been critical of Apple's business.
Mainland is Apple's second largest market after the United States, but CEO Tim Cook says it will eventually become No. 1.
Apple, headquartered in Cupertino, California, is also an important asset for China.
Most of its iPhones and tablets are assembled in Chinese factories that employ hundreds of thousands of people. Chinese suppliers supply components for Mac Pro computers mounted in Texas.