Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Wednesday he is optimistic that some apps pulled from China’s App Store to comply with regulatory rules will eventually be reinstated (via Reuters). Cook made the comments at the economic Fortune Forum in the southern city of Guangzhou, in the latest stint of his week-long China visit.
“My hope over time is that some of the things, the couple of things that’s been pulled, come back. I have great hope on that and great optimism on that,” Cook said, adding that he always tries to find areas to work together and if he gets criticized for that, so be it.
Apple has come in for criticism from local users and rights groups for acceding to government requests that it pull some apps from its Chinese App Store, including VPN services used to gain access to online services banned in China.
During the Forum, Cook also said that he believes strongly in freedoms – a comment that has been interpreted as response to a U.S. democratic senator’s remarks on Tuesday that Apple had a moral obligation to promote freedom of expression.
“[T]ech companies must continue to push back on Chinese suppression of free expression,” Vermont senator Patrick Leahy told CNBC. Leahy said he believed Apple was in danger of not fulfilling its “obligation to promote free expression and other basic human rights.”
In October, senators Leahy and Ted Cruz wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking why the company removed third-party VPN apps from its App Store in China.
Apple responded in a letter, explaining that it had “questioned the legal basis of the request” and had provided formal comments on Chinese cybersecurity law through trade associations. However, Apple stopped short of condemning the Chinese government’s censorship, instead telling the senators that “actions are our most powerful statement.”
Cook kicked off his China visit on Sunday, at the country’s state-run World Internet Conference, which aims to develop an “open” digital economy, despite its regular practice of online censorship and regulation.
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