Apple is removing VPN apps from China App Store

Leigh Mccormick
July 31, 2017

In a move sure to put Apple's ongoing activities in China under a more intense worldwide microscope, a number of foreign-made VPN software apps have been removed from China's app store, according to a report from The New York Times.

Affected companies received noticed Saturday morning that their apps had been removed from the store for violating Chinese law, which might be related to legislation put in motion at the start of the year which sought to make VPNs operating in China require Chinese government approval.

This is not the first time that Apple has removed apps at the request of the Chinese government, but it is a new reminder of how deeply beholden the tech giant has become to Beijing at a moment when the leadership has been pushing to tighten its control over the internet.

ExpressVPN called this step a drastic measure by the Chinese government and criticized Apple's support of this decision.

On Sunday Yokubaitis, president of VyperVPN developer Golden Frog said its app was also removed from the app store, the New York Times reported.

However, the notification did say that ExpressVPN would be available in other territories except for China. Add to that, The Times and Wall Street Journal are among several worldwide news sites that are also blocked in China.

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Apple is in the middle of a localisation drive in China, and named a new managing director for the region - a new role - this month.

Apple is also planning to establish new data centers with a local partner in the southwestern province of Guizhou.

"We are extremely disappointed that Apple has bowed to pressure", said Yokubaitis.

The law, already approved by the Duma lower house of parliament, bans the use of virtual private networks and other technologies such as proxy servers that allow people to use the web anonymously.

People who use VPN services in the country have the ability to "bypass China's so-called 'Great Firewall, '" Reuters reported.

China's internet regulator defended the crackdown earlier in the week, saying recent measures were part of an ongoing campaign aimed at "cleaning and standardizing" access to the internet.

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