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Apple removes Hong Kong map app after China criticism

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Apple removes Hong Kong map app after China criticism
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REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
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Several foreign companies, including Apple, and the National Basketball Association (NBA), have come under fire over the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Apple removed an application that tracked Hong Kong police movements through crowdsourcing from its app store after Chinese state media criticised the company.

The Chinese Communist Party's official newspaper, the People's Daily, had denounced Apple for approving an app that it said "helps rioters".

Although the paper did not name the application, the developer for HKmap.live tweeted last week that its app had been listed on the app store, stating that Apple had "finally made the right decision".

The app went live on October 5, its developer wrote on Twitter. But in an English language commentary piece posted on Wednesday, the Chinese newspaper accused Apple of "mixing business with politics, and even illegal acts", calling the move a "reckless decision".

Apple subsequently removed the app from the store.

The Hong Kong app crowdsources information about police movements and is used by protesters during what have sometimes become violent confrontations.

"We once believed the App rejection is simply a bureaucratic f up, but now it is clearly a political decision to suppress freedom and human right in #HongKong," the developer tweeted on Thursday.

The developer said that Apple initially rejected the application stating that the app contains content that allows users to "evade law enforcement". The developer estimated that around 100,000 people used the application.

Apple said in a statement: "the app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement.”

Apple is the latest of several foreign companies to face criticism over the protests in Hong Kong which have been going on for months.

Chinese state media accused the US National Basketball Association (NBA) of endorsing violence on Wednesday after the Houston Rockets manager backed Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests in a tweet over the weekend.

A Chinese service provider said they would stop broadcasting NBA games, and the Shanghai Sports Federation cancelled an NBA fan event on Wednesday after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he supported the manager's right to freedom of expression.

The league was heavily criticised in the US for an earlier statement released by US national media that apologised for the tweet, recognising that it had "offended" the NBA's "friends and fans" in China.

Other US businesses have changed their products and advertising for association with the protest movement.

Luxury jeweller Tiffany & Co removed a Twitter advert that showed a woman covering one eye, a pose that people thought referred to protesters. The company's spokesman said that the photograph was not intended to be a political statement and had been taken in May before the protests.

US sports brand Vans also removed shoe designs that reportedly referred to the Hong Kong protests after inviting the public to vote on new designs last week.

"As a brand that is open to everyone, we have never taken a political position and therefore review designs to ensure they are in line with our company’s long-held values of respect and tolerance, as well as with our clearly communicated guidelines for this competition," the company wrote on their Vans Hong Kong Facebook page.

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