July 10, 2020
Projections in London on Apple’s Covent Garden store, and the Chinese Embassy from global consumer group SumOfUs highlight how Apple is helping expand China’s repressive cybersurveillance (videos & photos).
LONDON: As the government of China imposes sweeping new restrictions on Hong Kong, through the National Security Law, tech companies Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Zoom, Telegram and TikTok say they will temporarily no longer comply with city authorities’ data requests, or are withdrawing from the city. Apple, however, has only said it would ‘assess’ the new law and has made no statement in support of freedom of expression.
On Thursday night, international consumer group SumOfUs, with Free Tibet activists projected a video of people talking about the Government of China’s brutal human rights record, with a message to Tim Cook to side with Tibetans, Uyghurs and Hong Kongers at the company’s Covent Garden store in London. A daring message reading ‘China Fails Freedom: Free Tibet, Free Hong Kong, Free Uyghurs’ was also projected onto the Chinese Embassy.
Sondhya Gupta, Campaigner at SumOfUs, said: “As the human rights situation deteriorates in Hong Kong, Apple sits on the sidelines as all other tech giants take decisive action. The longer Apple waits to ‘assess’ this new law, the more people’s lives are in danger.”
“Just four months ago, over 40% of Apple’s investors defied company management to vote for a proposal that would have forced Apple to safeguard freedom of expression and be transparent in its engagement with China. Apple CEO Tim Cook should have listened to his shareholders’ warning and put the right policies in place, instead of focusing on slick PR talking up Apple’s progressive credentials. His willingness to coddle the Government of China has emboldened it to increase cybersurveillance and repression.”
Apple has removed over 1,000 Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) from its China App Store over recent years at the request of the Government of China. VPNs are crucial for vulnerable human rights defenders to evade censorship, surveillance, and political backlash. In October 2019, it removed HKmap.live, an app marking the locations of police and road closures that helped pro-democracy protesters to stay safe.
Pema Doma, Campaigner at Students for a Free Tibet said: “Private sector leaders such as Apple have an irrefutable responsibility to uphold the values of their consumer base. We know that Apple understands this as well: Tim Cook recently made strong statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, reaffirming Apple’s mission to be a force for good in the world. But it is not enough to speak about human rights; Apple must also incorporate these values into the actions it takes on a daily basis in their dealings with the CCP, the worst human rights abusers our generation has seen.
Apple’s statement on Black Lives Matter signals to the world that Apple stands with Black Americans in their struggle against police brutality, but their silence on Tibet, on censorship in China, internment camps in East Turkestan, and their ambivalence on the National Security Law in Hong Kong, all show us that Apple is willing to put profits ahead of people.”
Zumretay Arkin Program & Advocacy Manager, World Uyghur Congress, said: “The fact that Apple as a major global brand has failed to take action in light of the new national security law imposed in Hong Kong reflects their previous position when it comes to human rights concerns in China. By complying with China’s regulations on censorship, Apple choses to side with these policies, and it confirms their stand on the ongoing mass surveillance state in China, and particularly Uyghurs who face significant restrictions on digital activity. If complying with the local laws entails aiding a totalitarian regime in their brutal crackdown on the freedom of Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and Chinese citizens, Apple should revisit their current position, and choose to listen to the voices of the marginalized communities.”
Angus Wong, Campaigner at SumOfUs, said: “The imposition of the CCP’s national security law is heartbreaking. The law means that I no longer feel safe to return to Hong Kong, my place of birth, and a place where many of my family members still live, all of which have yet to meet my son and wife. I call on the corporations who have for too long wilfully ignored the tech dystopia built by the government of China to side with the majority of Hong Kongers, who stand for fundamental rights.”
Notes to Editors
Video and photos are available at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/59gcgshjt5vrruy/AAA-o7OPd8AwkeGY_mhUQiGla?dl=0
Over 40% of Apple investors supported a proposal at the company’s shareholder meeting in February put forward by SumOfUs, nearly forcing the company to put policies in place to safeguard freedom of expression, and be more transparent in how it responds to requests from the Government of China. More information on the proposal is available here.
Over 130,000 people signed SumOfUs’s petition calling for Apple to stop blocking VPNs in China and to uphold freedom of expression.