40% of shareholders defy Apple management in vote on China cyber surveillance

February 26, 2020

Today, 40.6% of Apple shareholders voted in favour of policies to uphold and promote freedom of expression at the company’s shareholder meeting today.

The proposal was put forward by shareholders on behalf of consumer advocacy group SumOfUs. If it had passed, it would have required Apple to make a public commitment to free expression, report to shareholders annually on how it is upholding that commitment, and detail why it has removed apps and services on government requests that could limit users’ ability to exercise their right to free expression.

SumOfUs’ resolution was supported by influential corporate governance groups Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis, and Apple users around the world, many of whom signed a 130,000 strong petition.

Responding to hearing the announcement inside Apple’s AGM, Tibetan-American activist, Sonamtso said:

“Apple’s removal of VPNs directly aids the Chinese government’s crackdown on Tibetans, Uyghurs, and other human rights defenders. Today I was able to address Apple CEO Tim Cook directly and tell him how his company’s actions have significantly limited the freedom of expression of millions of people. The vote today sends a clear message that Apple's investors want him to listen.”

Sondhya Gupta, Campaign Manager at SumOfUs, said:

“Apple has long argued that by doing business with repressive regimes it has the opportunity to advance human rights. Its dealings with China have demonstrated that as a fallacy. Not only has the government of China increased its repressive cybersurveillance machine over the past decade, Apple’s willingness to accede to its demands threatened to undermine the company’s own stated values. Today, Apple’s investors have sounded the alarm that Tim Cook needs to listen to the concerns raised by frontline communities such as Tibetans and Uyghurs who have long suffered under a tech dystopia.”

Lobsang Gyatso from Tibet Action Institute, said:

“Apple champions itself as a leader in the fight for freedom of expression but has yet to make a meaningful commitment that actually upholds this as a fundamental human right. Now that 40% of Apple’s investors have voted for more transparency and accountability, we urge Apple to truly champion open internet access for all of its users, including Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Chinese people using its App Store in China.”

Zumretay Arkin from World Uyghur Congress, said:

“Today’s vote gives me hope that Apple shareholders care about the lives of Uyghur people. Over one million Uyghurs are currently detained by the government of China, Apple must understand it has a responsibility not to bolster this repressive regime.”

Notes to editors:

  • Proposal 6 was put forward by Apple shareholders on behalf of SumOfUs. It is available to view here.