Apple pulls major VPN from China App Store
An offshore provider of technology used to skirt the Great Firewall said on Saturday that it was disappointed by Apple’s decision to drop its app from the mainland China App Store.
ExpressVPN, a British Virgin Islands-based virtual private network (VPN) provider, said its iOS app had been removed from the store.
A notice from Apple said the software “includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store review guidelines”, and the decision was made on Saturday, according to ExpressVPN.
Calls to Apple’s mainland China unit went unanswered on Saturday.
China is Apple’s major market for its flagship products, including the iPhone and iPad.
ExpressVPN said it was troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts and strongly condemned the measures, which threatened free speech and civil liberties.
Other VPN providers were also affected, it said.
Three mainland iPhone users confirmed that the iOS app was not available but other users said the Windows, Mac and Android versions were still accessible.
Chinese-developed alternatives such as Benteng and Flying Bird, were also still available but had problems with connectivity and stability, users said.
VPNs are used on the mainland to encrypt messages and get access to censored websites overseas.
Many VPN providers have been shut down and other online content has been restricted as part of the country’s 14-month campaign to “clean up” the internet ahead of a five-yearly Communist Party changing of the guard later this year.
In a notice released in January, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said it would crack down on unapproved VPN operations.