As Apple drew severe criticism in China for removing all major VPN apps from the App Store in the country, the US tech giant has said it took the step as the country’s VPN developers did not meet the new regulations. In a statement, Apple said that earlier this year, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government. “We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business,” Apple said. With the help of VPNs, Chinese Internet users bypass the country’s famous “Great Firewall” that heavily restricts their access to foreign sites. This also helps them in remaining hidden from Internet service providers.
In line with Chinese government’s crackdown on Internet services, Apple removed all major VPN apps from the App Store in China. VPN service providers in China on Saturday received a notification from Apple that their applications would be removed from the App Store “because it includes content that is illegal in China”.
The notification was first shared by ExpressVPN, a VPN provider based out of British Virgin Islands which also operates in China. “We are disappointed 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,” said ExpressVPN in a blog post.
However, users who access the apps from a different territory’s App Store by indicating their billing address to be outside of China are not impacted. The move is seen in line with the Chinese government’s effort to censor open Internet.