Bipartisan Senate team demands an Apple answer on why it removed VPN apps from Chinese App Store

US Senators Ted Cruz (L) and Patrick Leahy (R) want answers from Apple

US Senators Ted Cruz (L) and Patrick Leahy (R) want answers from Apple

It's about time someone called out Apple CEO Tim Cook on being a bit of a hypocrite. Earlier this year, Cook received the free speech award at Newseum's 2017 Free Expression Awards, where he was quoted as saying "First we defend, we work to defend these freedoms by enabling people around the world to speak up. And second, we do it by speaking up ourselves.". Well, Mr. Cook, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Republican Senator Ted Cruz would like some answers on why Apple basically acquiesced to Chinese demands that Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps be pulled from the Chinese App Store.

The two senators sent a letter earlier this week to Cook demanding answers, bringing up the fact that China has an "abysmal" human rights record with respect to freedom of expression and free access to information online and offline, and stating that Apple "may be enabling the Chinese government's censorship and surveillance of the Internet." 

This is all in response to Apple pulling several VPN apps from the Chinese App Store in July. Some of the VPN service providers got notices from Apple saying that their apps were removed because they included "content that is illegal" in mainland China.  VPNs allow Chinese users to bypass the "Great Firewall of China" that restricts access to foreign websites. Cook responded to concerns about the decision to remove the apps at the last earnings call, where he said that Apple would "follow the law in whatever country it does business." 

Cruz and Leahy said that the removal of the VPN apps that "allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the Internet privately does not enable people in China to "speak up", a direct zing to Cook's Newseum speech. The two senators have asked Cook to explain if Apple raised concerns about Beijing's cybersecurity laws, or if they pushed back at any point when asked to remove the apps.