To Mark New iPhone Release, SumOfUs Files Shareholder Proposal Demanding Apple Promotes Freedom of Expression

September 10, 2019

Shareholders express concerns that Apple’s products and services facilitate suppression of free expression and punishment of dissent 

CUPERTINO, CA — On September 9, 2019, over a dozen shareholders working with SumOfUs, an international consumer group, submitted a proposal on behalf of its members calling for a policy change that promotes free expression, ahead of Apple’s annual shareholder meeting in 2020. This is of particular concern in countries and territories such as China, Tibet and East Turkestan. China accounts for 20% of the company’s market.

Apple shareholders urge the company to evaluate the human rights trade-off between servicing the region and complying with requests from the Government of China. Apple has already blocked hundreds of “virtual private network” (VPN) apps in China, which are crucial for human rights defenders to report abuses and evade political backlash and persecution.


“Recently, pro-democracy protesters from Hong Kong leveraged Apple’s Airdrop technology during protests to great success. At the same time, in mainland China, Tibetan activists and Uyghur families continue to face persecution for their political activities online – which Apple refuses to protect them from,” said Reem Suleiman, Senior Campaigner at SumOfUs.

“We’ve seen Apple technology leveraged with varying impacts to free expression and democracy just in the past few months,” said Sondhya Gupta, Campaign Manager at SumOfUs. “For this reason, we, along with Apple shareholders, implore the company to take a look at the bigger human rights picture in countries and territories such as China, Tibet and East Turkestan where freedom of expression is constantly suppressed.”

Tenzin Jigdal, of the International Tibet Network, said: “By accepting China’s restrictions Apple is both limiting civil and political freedoms and legitimising a repressive regime. It is beyond urgent that human rights defenders, in Tibet and all areas under China's control, are protected and not exposed. Apple's collusion with China is putting the lives of Tibetans, Uyghurs and other human rights defenders at risk, and we call on Apple to reinstate VPNs to its AppStore immediately."

"It is clear now that Tibetans, Uyghurs, Chinese rights advocates and countless other groups living in Beijing's iron grip are facing a human rights crisis of epic proportions and Apple is right there working alongside the Chinese government to make the situation worse," said Lhadon Tethong, Director of Tibet Action Institute. "Apple is not simply blocking "apps" in the Chinese marketplace, but rather facilitating a crackdown on free speech and expression for nearly one-fifth of the world's population and it has to stop. Tim Cook has a moral responsibility to change the company's practices or Apple will go down in history as an accomplice to one of the worst human rights catastrophes in modern human history."

Close to 60,000 SumOfUs members,1,592 of whom own shares at Apple, have signed a petition demanding the company refuse to comply with censorship at the request of the government of China.