China has strict Internet censorship laws through the Great Firewall of China – the country’s Golden Shield project, which has various types of tricks to censor Internet and prevent access to major foreign websites in the country.
The Great Firewall is already blocking 171 of the world’s top 1,000 websites including Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Dropbox, Tumblr, SoundCloud and Pirate Bay.
The Chinese government’s crackdown on the internet continues with the news that Apple has removed all major VPN apps from the App Store in China, which help internet users overcome the country’s censorship system.
In order to comply with the Chinese Censorship Act, Apple has started removing all Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps from the App Store in China, which makes it difficult for internet users to bypass their great firewall.
The move was first noted by ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China, which said in a blog post “all major VPN apps” including its own had been purged from Apple’s China-based store. The company shared a note from Apple (below) explaining that its app was removed because “it includes content that is illegal in China.”
ExpressVPN said that it was disappointed to see Apple “aiding China’s censorship agents,” and condemned the removals. The country seems to be pushing against the use of VPN, earlier this year, a campaign was started to block companies from establishing or renting such networks without government clearance. Some users – who have a billing address outside of China – can still download Apps from the App Stores from other territories
Not only Express VPN, but another VPN service provider, Star VPN also received same notice from Apple, the company confirmed on Saturday through its official Twitter account.
“We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China,” Apple said in the notice. “We know this stuff is complicated, but it is your responsibility to understand and make sure your app conforms with all local laws.”
Although Apple did not comment on this issue, it is no coincidence, because in recent months the company has implemented various aspects of Chinese law for its regional operations in the most populous country.
Earlier this year, Apple removed the New York Times (NYT) app from its Chinese App Store because the app was in “violation of local regulations.”
Diebestenvpn also notes that Apple also removed the Bloomberg app, which gave users free access to stories behind its paywall. This was apparently due to pressure from Chinese authorities.
Internetetsecurite says that this is not the first time Apple has removed VPN apps from their app store, after receiving a notice by French authorities in January 2017 to remove any apps that allow users to circumvent geolocation.
UPDATE: Apple officialy issues statement regarding removal of unlicensed VPN apps from App Store in China
Apple’s full statement is as follows:
Earlier this year China’s MIIT announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government. We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.
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