Apple says it’s just playing by the rules...
Over the holidays, Apple removed the New York Times mobile apps, both the English-language version and the Chinese-language version, from the App Store in China. The Times originally reported that its apps were removed on December 23, and Apple confirmed it on Thursday, citing a request from Chinese authorities.
Apple spokesperson Fred Sainz gave the Times the following statement:
“For some time now the New York Times app has not been permitted to display content to most users in China and we have been informed that the app is in violation of local regulations. As a result, the app must be taken down off the China App Store. When this situation changes, the App Store will once again offer the New York Times app for download in China.”
Apple did not specify which Chinese regulations the NYTimes app had violated, or whether the Chinese government had served Apple with a court order or any other legal document. The Times speculates that the request was made under the new mobile app regulations released in June. These regulations state that apps could be subject to censorship or removal if they are found to be “endangering national security, disrupting social order and violating the legitimate rights and interests of others.”
Furthermore, the Times suggests there is a link between its apps being removed and an investigation the newspaper published on December 29 detailing the massive government perks given to Foxconn, Apple’s manufacturing partner in China.
Chinese iOS users who already have the NYTimes app installed will not be affected, but they won’t be able to install updates directly from the App Store unless they go to another region. The app can still be installed in Hong Kong and Taiwan if the user has a billing address outside mainland China. The newspaper’s standalone crossword puzzle and virtual reality apps were not taken down.
The story behind the story: The Chinese government began blocking the Times website in 2012, rendering the mobile apps unable to retrieve new content. In 2015, however, the NYTimes released a new version of its Chinese-language app that was able to circumvent China’s firewall.
Earlier this year, Apple was forced by the Chinese government to shut down its own iTunes Movies and iBooks services just six months after launching it in the country.