Apple’s app store bows over China’s war on faith
It was reported last week that a Bible app and a Quran app had been removed from Apple’s App Store in China under pressure from the Chinese government.
This is not surprising behavior on the part of the Chinese Communist Party. But now an American company has been enlisted to do Beijing’s dirty work.
The Apple Censorship watch group was the first to report that the apps, Olive Tree’s Bible app and Quran Majeed, had been removed.
When Apple removed the Quran app, the app’s creators learned that it contained illegal content in China. China’s restrictions on religious texts have affected those of all faiths, sometimes brutally. In Xinjiang, Uyghur Muslims caught with religious content on their phones can be held without trial in an internment camp.
The leaders of Olive Tree themselves have suppressed its Bible application. “Olive Tree Bible software was advised during the App Store review process that we must provide a license demonstrating our authorization to distribute an app with book or magazine content in Mainland China,” a door said. -speak to BBC News. “Because we didn’t have the license and needed to get our app update approved and released to customers, we removed our Bible app from the Chinese app store. “
He hopes to eventually get the app back from the App Store.
This seems unlikely, however, as the Chinese government has tightened restrictions limiting Chinese citizens’ access to the Bible as a whole. Physical copies of the Bible can no longer be purchased online in China, Christian businessmen prosecuted for selling audio Bibles online, and the Chinese Communist Party announced it is developing its own version of the Bible who would adopt socialist values.
The Chinese government’s crackdown on citizens’ access to religious texts continues. With Apple’s removal of the Quran app and Olive Tree’s self-censorship, pressure from the Chinese government is now forcing US companies to censor for Beijing.
This comes at a time when freedom of expression online is under attack around the world. Freedom House’s 2021 Freedom on the Net report found that “[m]Ore governments have arrested users for nonviolent political, social or religious speeches like never before. “
And for the seventh year in a row, China has the worst conditions for internet freedom. Instead of allowing this problem, American companies like Apple should promote freedom of speech abroad, including religious expression.
Although American companies routinely advocate progressive policies at home, they often neglect to take firm positions against authoritarian regimes abroad. Apple went so far as to push to weaken Uyghur forced labor prevention law last November., a bill that would prevent products made using forced labor by Uyghur Muslims from entering the United States.
Apple appears to be putting profits ahead of human rights, whether it’s removing religious apps at the behest of the Chinese government or taking advantage of modern slavery in China.
Last month, Apple and Google removed a Russian political opposition app from their app stores after Russian censors demanded it. These acts of cowardice are disturbing. Do American companies really want to take on the role of censors for regimes hating freedom?
Apple and other U.S. companies need to beef up and stand up to authoritarian regimes bent on exercising control at the expense of fundamental freedoms, such as free speech and religious freedom.
They need to do a better job fending off the Chinese government and other bad actors. Otherwise, they become complicit in facilitating human rights violations against people around the world.
American businesses can do better, and American customers should demand that they do it.
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