Apple has made the decision to remove VPN (virtual private network) services from the App Store in China because they are illegal in China, unless approved.
VPNs enable users to get around China’s highly restrictive internet features. However, after passing a law to ban all VPNs not approved by the state in January, VPNs must be approved and use state network infrastructure.
“Apps must comply with all legal requirements in any location where you make them available (if you’re not sure, check with a lawyer),” said Apple in an email to VPN companies. “We know this stuff is complicated, but it is your responsibility to understand and make sure your app conforms with all local laws… And of course, apps that solicit, promote, or encourage criminal or clearly reckless behaviour will be rejected.
“While your app has been removed from the China App Store, it is still available in the App Stores for the other territories you selected in iTunes Connect.”
One company that received the news from Apple, and has since been removed from the App Store expressed its disappoint in the action taken by Apple.
“We’re disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts,” said the ExpressVPN team in a blog post. “ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties.”
The move from Apple seems like an attempt to keep the Chinese government onside in the country, rather than one with any eye on the law. Toward the end of last year, Apple pulled the New York Times app from its App Store in China because it allegedly violated local regulations with its content.