Apple gave us a statement explaining that the map app violated both its own rules and local laws.
"National and global debates will outlive us all, and, while important, they do not govern the facts", Cook wrote. Apple said it had received reports that people were using the HKmaps.live app to target police.
Alphabet Inc's Google on Thursday said it had dropped a game from its app store that allowed players to pretend they were Hong Kong protesters, saying its policies forbid capitalizing on ongoing sensitive events.
The dynamic, crowd-sourced app HKmap.live has become popular for helping people to navigate through the tear gas-filled streets in Hong Kong, a former British colony where pro-democracy protests have erupted since June against Beijing's creeping interference.
Apple is among several US companies and entities to be caught up in the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, among them Viacom, Google, Activision Blizzard and the National Basketball Association.
The developers of HKmap.live said they disagree with claims that the app is a public safety threat and said there was zero evidence backing up the Hong Kong authorities' allegations.
Apple claims the app has been abused by criminals."The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement". The company didn't respond to requests for comment yesterday.
"Whilst we may not be able to fight alongside the young protesters in the frontline against an unjust government, escalating police violence and indiscriminate arrests, we take it to heart to uphold the core values of Hong Kong and defend the future of our younger generations", it said in a statement.
We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place to discover apps.
In a tweet, the developer said the app doesn't "solicit, promote, or encourage criminal activity". Thursday's removal of the app drew immediate reprimands from Washington.
Beijing has taken an increasingly hard line on the Hong Kong protests, and on Wednesday slammed them as "violent and illegal". The metro, which normally carries around 5 million people a day, will again shut early today.
Apple's move, it said, was "clearly a political decision" created to suppress freedom and human rights in Hong Kong.
The company has "thoroughly" reviewed the facts surrounding HKmap.live - which provides crowdsourced information on police checkpoints, among other things - and the decision to pull the app "best protects our users", Cook told employees in an internal message. A web version was also still viewable on iPhones.
The unrest started more than four months ago in what began as opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill but has since widened into a pro-democracy movement amid fears that China is encroaching on Hong Kong's freedoms.