Apple has created an internal bureaucracy that rejects or removes apps that the company believes may violate Chinese rules. Apple trains its app reviewers and uses special software to examine apps for topics Apple has banned in China, including Tiananmen Square, the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama, and the independence of Tibet and Taiwan .

Apple said it is removing apps in China to comply with local laws.

In 2018, China’s internet regulators ordered Apple to reject an app from Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire who broadcast allegations of corruption within the Communist Party. Apple’s top executives then decided to add Mr. Guo to Apple’s “China Sensitivities List”. This meant software would scan apps to mention him, and app reviewers would be trained to reject his apps according to court documents.

When an app from Mr. Guo later slipped through Apple’s defense and was released on the App Store, Chinese officials contacted Apple for answers. Apple’s app review chief emailed his colleagues at 2:32 am with the caption, “This app and any Guo Wengui app cannot be available in the China Store.” Apple investigated the incident and later dismissed the app Reviewer who approved the app.

Apple said it fired the app reviewer for poor performance and removed Mr. Guo’s app in China because it found it was illegal there.

According to a Times analysis, around 55,000 active apps have disappeared from Apple’s app store in China since 2017, most of which are available in other countries.

More than 35,000 of these apps were games that require regulatory approval in China. The remaining 20,000 are spread across a variety of categories including foreign news agencies, gay dating services, and encrypted messaging apps. Apple also blocked tools for organizing protests and pro-democracy Bypass internet restrictionsas well as apps about the Dalai Lama.

Apple denied the Times’ numbers, saying that some developers had removed their own apps from China.



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