Apple pulls dozens of VPN apps from China ahead of national ban

31 Jul 2017

Apple’s logo in red. Image: Benny Marty/Shutterstock

Apple is once again bowing to demands made by the Chinese government after pulling VPN apps from the App Store.

Virtual private network (VPN) providers are openly criticising Apple after their apps suddenly disappeared from the App Store in China ahead of the country’s total ban on such services.

According to the BBC, as many as 60 VPN providers – which allow people to mask their IP address and get past the ‘Great Firewall of China’ – were all removed over the course of the weekend.

In a statement, Apple confirmed that the VPN apps were pulled from the App Store, but did not go into specific details as to how many, adding that others are still available for the moment.

One of the companies affected by the ban is ExpressVPN, which confirmed that as of 4am UTC on 29 July, its app disappeared from the China store.

Describing the decision by Apple as “surprising and unfortunate”, it also criticised the Chinese government’s part in attempting to ban all VPNs.

“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,” it said.

Contradicting company policy

Golden Frog – the developer of VyprVPN – also spoke openly against the Chinese government for its ban, criticising Apple for contradicting its company policies.

“Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said ‘accessibility is a human right’. If Apple views accessibility as a human right, we would hope Apple will likewise recognise internet access as a human right and would choose human rights over profits.”

This news comes just a few weeks after China announced that a total ban on VPNs – with exceptions for some foreign businesses – would come into effect in February of next year.

With many services such as Google, YouTube and Facebook banned in China, VPN services are incredibly popular among expats and Chinese nationals looking to access news and other services prohibited by the government.

Apple’s logo in red. Image: Benny Marty/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic