The Chinese government's crackdown on the internet continues with the news that Apple has removed all major VPN apps, which help internet users overcome the country's censorship system, from the App Store in China.
ExpressVPN, which says it is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, posted a screenshot of the notice from Apple that its app "includes content that is illegal in China".
Apple Inc is removing virtual private network (VPN) services from its app store in China, VPN service providers said on Saturday, accusing the USA tech giant of bowing to pressure from Beijing to comply with stringent cyberspace regulations. Some users - those who have a billing address outside of China - can still download the apps from the App stores from other territories. Another company, Star VPN, also reported receiving the notice.
"We view access to Internet in China as a human rights issue, and I would expect Apple to value human rights over profits".
ExpressVPN said that it was disappointed to see Apple "aiding China's censorship agents", and condemned the removals.
Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
While Apple's decision is surprising and unfortunate, it does not change ExpressVPN's commitment to keeping you securely and reliably connected. In China, VPNs can be used to skirt the government's extensive system of internet controls, sometimes called the "Great Firewall". "We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations", the company said.
The government's focus on cutting out VPNs is said to be taking other forms, as well.
Earlier this month, a well-known Chinese provider announced it had been told by regulators to stop service. Internet controls in China typically wax and wane according to the gravity of political events, but numerous recent moves are in line with a long-term drive by Chinese Presidnt Xi to harden China's internet against outside threats by exerting more control over flows of data.