The tumultuous political situation in Hong Kong has created ripple effects for many global companies doing business there, and that includes consumer electronics giant Apple.
An app available through Apple’s online store, the HKmap.live app, was pulled by the company, according to an Associated Press report. The app provided real-time updates showing police movements, helping to steer users away from possible baton charges, volleys of tear gas and police ID checks. But Apple pulled the app amidst reports from various sources that the app was used as a tool in government insubordination and criminal activities.
“Criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” Apple was quoted as saying. “This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store.”
That act was not well received by Apple’s customers in Hong Kong, even those who have not taken an active part in the protests.
For instance, Apple phone user Canny Ng started wearing black to express sympathy for the protesters, though she’s followed the demonstrations on TV, according to the report. She was quoted as saying Apple’s decision was not acceptable, and has given her pause about buying future Apple products.
HKmap.live is “quite useful,” she was quoted as saying. “I just want to find a way that I won’t see any police, especially when I’m wearing black. You’re worried that, oh, maybe they will check your ID,” she said.
The report quoted Hong Kong office worker Acko Wong, 26, scoffing at the suggestion that the app helped give a free rein to criminals.
He was quoted as saying the argument that the app could be used to ambush police and point criminals to areas where police aren’t stationed “does not make sense.”
“How do you ambush a group of police with equipment and gear like helmets and shields?” he asked. Wong said he downloaded the app to steer clear of “danger and traffic” during the many battles between protesters and police that have put Hong Kong on edge and prompted a government ban, enforceable by a 1-year prison sentence, on the face masks that many protesters wear to shield their identity.
While no longer available for download, the app reportedly still works for users who had already downloaded it to their Apple devices. It also works on Android devices and in web browsers
China is considered vital for Apple’s business, as the country is Apple’s second-biggest market after the United States, the report said. Most of Apple’s iPhones and tablet computers are assembled in Chinese factories that employ hundreds of thousands of people.