The tech giants are the latest U.S.-based companies to get enmeshed in ongoing anti-government protests in the lucrative territory. While U.S. firms have flocked to China in pursuit of its vast spending power, doing business in the region has proven complex, especially when basic principles of freedom enshrined in the U.S. Constitution are punished by authorities.
Apple’s app, HKmap.live, was capable of pointing out the location of local police, which enabled protesters to attack them, according to reports in China. Apple said it decided to pull the app after consulting with local law enforcement officials and concluding it had played a role in ambushes of police.
On Wednesday, People’s Daily Online, the state-run news outlet of the Communist Party, blasted Apple for providing access to the app. “Business is business, and politics is politics. Nobody wants to drag Apple into the lingering unrest in Hong Kong,” the website wrote. “But people have reason to assume that Apple is mixing business with politics, and even illegal acts. Apple has to think about the consequences of its unwise and reckless decision.”
Google, meanwhile, removed a mobile game that enabled players to assume the identity of a protester. The Wall Street Journal reported that the game was removed from the Google Play store after a request from Hong Kong police officials.
Investors have sent U.S. stocks higher over the past two days on newfound optimism about U.S.-China trade negotiations. Apple shares are up 1% to nearly $230 a share in Thursday trading, and shares in Google parent Alphabet have also gone up 1% to $1,213.70.
Protests have roiled Hong Kong since the springtime, and in recent days the NBA and Viacom have both been ensnared in tensions as they have grown more intense. Daryl Morey, general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, tweeted his support of the protesters, resulting in a massive backlash in the lucrative Chinese market.
Comedy Central’s South Park has also been yanked from the internet and social media platforms in China after the animated show took direct aim at China in its latest episode. Co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone offered an unapologetic “apology” in response. Activision Blizzard bowed to pressure from China and disciplined a professional gamer affiliated with one of its games over his comments in support of the protesters.