It looks like Another Bad China Day for Apple. The company faces accusations of kowtowing to China after it removed an application from its app store in China today that includes books banned in the country—just days after Apple issued a long and contrite apology to Chinese customers following near daily onslaughts by state media. (Apple hasn’t responded to a request for comment.)
But the removal of bookstore jingdian shucheng (or classics bookstore), may just be the beginning of Apple giving in to Chinese censorship in order to preempt another attack. We asked earlier whether the current scrutiny of Apple by Chinese authorities would mean a crackdown on Apple’s app store. Up to now, Apple has been one of the only foreign online services that has seemingly gotten away with circumventing the Great Firewall of China, the country’s censorship system. The Apple app store uses a secure connection to users that could make it harder for censors to block specific apps. And it has so far allowed Chinese users to access all apps in the store, including those for virtual private networks used to get around censors. “This is an issue that we’ve been waiting to hit the news – there’s so much foreign content available through the app store that has not been directly approved by the Chinese government,” Jeremy Goldkorn, director of Chinese media blog Danwei, told the Financial Times (paywall).
The Financial Times reports that the developer of jingdian shucheng, Hao Peiqiang, said he wasn’t given a reason for the removal but suspects it was the inclusion of three titles by the Chinese political activist Wang Lixiong that are banned in China. These include one on China’s policies toward Tibet (Tianzang), the possible collapse of the Chinese government (Yellow Peril) and a memoir of Wang’s travels in the western region of Xinjiang, home to a separatist movement (My Western Territory, Your Eastern Land), according to the newspaper. The app and the books are available outside of China.