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Russian and Chinese Governments Crack Down on iOS VPNs

01 August 2017

But the company appears to be taking no chances with its interpretation of the rules, saying in a statement that "we have been required" to remove VPNs from the Chinese App Store. This has led to VPN providers accuse Apple of being unnecessarily supportive of the heightened censorship regime in China. A spokesperson said that it will remove apps that don't comply with the law from its China App Store, including services based outside the country.

On Monday, Apple released a statement indicating that its decision is in compliance with regulations put in place by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) earlier this year that require VPN apps to be licensed by the government.

However, some VPN apps are still available in China's app store and some plan to fight against the ban by filing an appeal with Apple.

The VPNs helped users in the region to find their way around government censorship and gain access to unauthorized media sources.

This news comes just a few weeks after China announced that a total ban on VPNs - with exceptions for some foreign businesses - would come into effect in February of next year.

One prominent and controversial champion of Internet freedom, the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, quickly responded with outrage to Apple's move.

China is Apple's third-largest market, behind North America and Europe and the company has been struggling there in recent quarters.

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There's also evidence to suggest the rise of WeChat, which lets users do pretty much anything inside its ecosystem, has diminished the importance of the operating system among many consumers in China.

While China is not a major market for Amazon, the company has been in the country for a long time and has been pushing its cloud computing services there.

Ms. Wang, who said that Sinnet handles Amazon Web Services operations across China, said that the company has sent letters warning users about such services in the past but that the government had been more focused on other issues.

It's too soon to say what Apple's decision on VPNs will mean for the future of its business in China, or for its policy battles elsewhere.

Apple's growth in smartphones is highly linked to the Chinese market. Last month it created a new role of a managing director and named its first appointee.

Apple might better serve its customers and democracy worldwide by taking a principled political stance in opposition to China's regulations on the grounds of human rights.

Russian and Chinese Governments Crack Down on iOS VPNs