8.01.2017

Apple Removes VPN Services from Chinese App Store

Cupertino helps Communist Party fortify Great Firewall


With its stated purpose to “strengthen the qualification [of] management [and] investigate and deal with illegal business,” China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) requires that all providers of VPN services “obtain the corresponding telecommunications business license certificate.” VPN is short “Virtual Private Network” and is a commonly used way to mask one’s physical location through the use of (an) intermediary IP address(es). 

In compliance with China’s new rules, Apple has cracked down on this popular method of circumventing state censorship. China’s Communist Party has taken innumerable steps in curtailing their people’s desire to express themselves freely online, with government attempts to muffle internet dissent dating back as far as 1999. Apple, who seeks to be seen as a humanitarian and compassionate corporation, is enabling a state power in suppression of its citizens’ human rights. This is not the first time Apple Inc. has turned a blind eye to to the mistreatment of Easterners. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook at the China Development Forum 2017

Apple’s official position on the matter is that they “have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations,” and defends their actions by pointing out that “these apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.” The principled thing to would be to allow these services to remain on the Chinese App Store in spite of their violation of the MIIT crackdown, but with more iPhones being sold in China than the United States, the Cupertino tech giant does not want to gamble with its access to such a massive market.

Echoing Apple’s sentiment, ExpressVPN (which was one of the apps removed) recommends users looking to bypass Beijing’s decree “access a different territory’s App Store” in order to install their service. This is yet another hoop for the censored people to jump through into order to gain access to the uncensored web. Presumably, users tech savvy enough to use a VPN are capable of changing their App Store billing address, but this new requirement further raises the bar for people looking to leapfrog the Communist Party’s Great Firewall.