BEIJING: Apple Inc says it is removing virtual private network (VPN) services from its app store in China, drawing criticism from VPN service providers, who accuse the US tech giant of bowing to pressure from Beijing cyber regulators.
VPNs allow users to bypass China’s so-called “Great Firewall” aimed at restricting access to overseas sites.
In January, Beijing passed laws seeking to ban all VPNs that are not approved by state regulators. Approved VPNs must use state network infrastructure.
In a statement on Sunday, an Apple spokeswoman confirmed it will remove apps that don’t comply with the law from its China App Store, including services based outside the country.
While personal VPN providers have been the subject of state-led attacks in the past, this marks the first time Apple has complied with requests to scrub overseas providers from its store, a move that VPN providers say is unnecessarily supportive of China’s heightened censorship regime.
“We’re disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts,” ExpressVPN said in a statement.