Apple has begun removing all VPN apps from the App Store in China, as first noted by the developers of ExpressVPN. In a blog post, they reported that Apple informed them that their app had been pulled from the Chinese App Store. It seems all major VPN clients have received the same treatment.
ExpressVPN said Saturday it received a letter from Apple saying its iOS app was taken down. The reason for the removal? “It includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” the letter states.
As a result of the country’s online censorship, many citizens and visitors have turned to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) as a means to access the sites and content that have been banned by the government. Today, several companies have reported receiving notifications from Apple stating that their Apps have been pulled from the Chinese store.
ExpressVPN said that it was disappointed to see Apple “aiding China’s censorship agents,” and condemned the removals. The country appears to be pushing back against the usage of VPNs, launching a campaign to block companies from setting up or renting out such networks without official approval earlier this year. Some users — those who have a billing address outside of China — can still download the apps from the App stores from other territories.
Earlier this month, Apple partnered with a local firm to setup its first Chinese data center. The facility will store all user information for Chinese customers.
This was in response to new internet security laws in China that require companies to store Chinese user data domestically. Apple was one of the first major companies to comply.
Apple wants to be a big player in China and staying on the good side of government is in its best interests, as it looks to the emerging middle class as a growth opportunity for iPhone sales. The company announced a new VP position dedicated to managing Apple’s operations in China earlier this month.