Apple has removed the popular messaging and social media apps WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, and Threads from its App Store in China at the request of the Chinese government.

The Wall Street Journal (a subscription is required to read the entire article) says this is the latest example of censorship demands on the iPhone seller in the company’s second-biggest market. However, Apple told 9to5Mac that the Cyberspace Administration of China cites national security concerns for their request.

“We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree,” says Apple. “The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns. These apps remain available for download on all other storefronts where they appear.”

The immediate risk of not accommodating legal demands, in Apple’s view, is the possibility the App Store being shut down in China, according to 9to5Mac.

The tech giant has been frequently accused of kowtowing to China’s government. In November 2022 Senator Josh Hawley (Republican) wrote an open letter to Apple’s Tim Cook, and amongst other topics, is accusing the company of helping China suppress free speech. Here’s some key points from the letter:

° Apple has not condemned the treatment of workers who manufacture its products in China, including the physical violence inflicted upon them by Chinese law enforcement in Zhengzhou. When will Apple issue a statement condemning this treatment? And why has it not done so already?

° Given the Chinese Communist Party’s commitment to a zero-COVID policy, please detail the material risks associated with Apple’s continued dependency on China for the manufacture of its products. How does Apple communicate these risks to its stakeholders?

° If China were to invade Taiwan, what impact would this have on Apple’s ability to manufacture and sell its products? How does Apple communicate these risks to its stakeholders?

° Please detail Apple’s plan to diversify its supply chain and production networks, including any plans to expand manufacturing of its products in the United States with American workers.

° Why did Apple modify the AirDrop feature in China in a manner that makes it more difficult for Chinese protesters to communicate amongst themselves? Please provide all communication between Apple and Chinese Communist Party officials concerning the AirDrop feature in the iOS 16.1.1 update.

Hawley also added: At the same time, it appears that Apple might be importing this model of speech control to the United States: reports indicate that your company might deplatform Twitter from the App Store as a consequence of the free speech policies implemented by new ownership.

And in May 2021, four members of Congress, Ken Buck, Scott Fitzgerald, Burgess Owens, and Dan Bishop signed a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking Apple to end its “near total capitulation to the communist regime in China.” The letter describes Apples relationship with the Chinese government as a contradiction to Apple’s core values of holding privacy as a fundamental human right.

Article provided with permission from AppleWorld.Today