Apple on Thursday removed an app criticised by China for allowing protestors in Hong Kong to track police, as Beijing steps up pressure on foreign companies deemed to be providing support to the pro-democracy movement.

Apple pulls Hong Kong app used by protesters after China warning

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by James EDGAR

Apple on Thursday removed an app criticised by China for allowing protestors in Hong Kong to track police, as Beijing steps up pressure on foreign companies deemed to be providing support to the pro-democracy movement.

The tech giant’s pulling of HKmap.live was blasted as bowing to China and comes as high-profile brands, including the NBA and its Houston Rockets franchise, come under pressure from communist authorities over perceived support for democracy demonstrations in the financial hub.

Chinese state media this week tore into the app, which collates information on police locations submitted by users, charging that it was helping “rioters”.

Communist Party mouthpiece The People’s Daily said by stocking the app, Apple was “mixing business with politics, and even illegal acts”.

On Thursday the app was no longer available on Apple’s Hong Kong App Store.

“We have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police,” said a notification sent by Apple and published on the HKmap.live’s Telegram channel, which has more than 70,000 subscribers.

“Criminals have used it to victimise residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” it continued.

HKmap.live’s makers denied their app encouraged criminal activity, and lashed out at Apple’s removal as “censorship” and “clearly a political decision to suppress freedom”.

The online and Android versions of HKmap.live were still available.

– ‘People are scared’ –
Hong Kong has been rocked by four months of increasingly violent protests, initially against a now-shelved extradition law, but whose focus has now shifted to broader pro-democracy aims.

The city’s once-respected police force has become the target of anger over what demonstrators say is excessive violence, that has included the use of live rounds to quell unrest.

Hong Kongers took to social media to protest the removal.

“Many people are scared of police using tear gas and rubber bullets, so they use the app and make detours to avoid the uncontrolled police thugs,” Pro-democracy lawmaker Charles Mok wrote on Facebook.

“Does Apple know it has the function to protect personal safety?”

And a user on the Reddit-like forum LIHKG said: “The app actually tells people where not to go. It ensures residents’ safety.”

Apple’s decision comes after the tech giant earlier this week removed the Taiwan flag emoji from its iOS 13 update for users in Hong Kong and Macau. The emoji was available on phones whose Apple account was based in other jurisdictions.

News organisation Quartz said also its mobile app was removed from the Chinese version of the App Store after complaints from the Chinese government.

Quartz told The Verge website it believes the ban was due to the publication’s coverage of the protests, and said it also received a notice from Apple that its mobile app “includes content that is illegal in China”.

China accounts for around a sixth of Apple’s overall sales, and is the company’s third largest market after the US and Europe.

But the Silicon Valley giant has struggled in recent years, lagging behind local rivals.

The iPhone manufacturer had the fifth biggest market share in the country in the second quarter at 6.7 percent, well behind leader Huawei and other domestic companies, according to data from the Chinese-owned International Data Corporation.

– No dissent –
The tech company joins a long list of international brands that have fallen foul of China’s increasingly nationalist consumer base, who brook no dissent from the official Communist Party line on issues ranging from Hong Kong to Taiwan to Xinjiang.

The highest profile spat this week has seen Chinese broadcasters yank pre-season basketball games after the Houston Rockets manager tweeted his support for Hong Kong.

Corporate sponsors abandoned the team, despite apologies from figures including megastar James Harden.

After an initial wobble, which was criticised in the US, the NBA lined up behind the right of its players and officials to speak their mind.

New York-based Tiffany removed an advert showing a woman covering one eye after Chinese consumers accused the jeweller of supporting protesters by referencing a well-known injury.

Footwear brand Vans pulled two entries from an online design competition which featured motifs of the demonstrations.

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Rule of law prevailed: Trillanes hails CA ruling junking revival of rebellion raps

Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Tuesday (March 2) hailed the favorable ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) concerning his rebellion case.

“Today, the rule of law prevailed,” Trillanes declared.

With this, the former lawmaker also expressed gratitude to the appellate court for the favorable ruling.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa mga CA justices na gumawa ng desisyong ito,” he stated.

“Sana all na judges and justices ay may ganitong sense of justice to check the prevailing authoritarianism in the country,” he added,

Trillanes’s petition before the CA assailed the 2018 orders of Makati City Judge Elmo Alameda to issue a hold departure order (HDO) and arrest warrant against the former lawmaker even though the same magistrate dismissed back in 2011 the rebellion case against him.

The case was dismissed by the judge in 2011 after Trillanes was granted amnesty by then President Benigno Aquino III.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) sought to revive the case before the Makati court after President Rodrigo Duterte revoked the amnesty.

Sinong guilty? Lord Velasco’s allies gang up on Alan Cayetano after ally exposes P20-B budget cut

By Billy Begas

Allies of House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco slammed the camp of Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano for his supporters’ attempt to drag the Marinduque lawmaker in the issue involving the P20 billion pension and gratuity fund of uniformed government personnel that was diverted to infrastructure projects.

Senior Deputy Speaker Salvador Leachon said it was clear based on the explanation of House Committee on Appropriations chairperson Eric Yap that the slashed P20 billion will not be used this year to pay the pension and gratuity of uniformed personnel.

“Based on Congressman Yap’s accounts, which I find to be accurate, the current problems involving the pension of uniformed retirees was due to the P70-billion cut in their budget for the year 2020, during Cayetano’s term,” Leachon said.

Yap said that the House then led by Cayetano slashed P70 billion from the 2020 national budget.

Earlier, Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor said that he did not know what happened then. “Hindi ko ho alam kung nag-usap sila (House-led Cayetano and Department of Budget and Management) pero ang sigurado ko ho nagrereklamo ngayon ang DBM dahil binawasan ang pension fund.”

Yap claimed that the DBM knows the reduction of budget.

“Their unfounded allegations against Speaker Velasco boomeranged to them when it turned out the current problems faced by uniformed retirees was brought about by the more than P70 billion deducted from the 2020 PGF budget during Cayetano’s time,” said Leachon.

Defensor contradicted Leachon’s claim in a text message. “How can it have boomeranged when Chair Eric Yap admitted that they slashed the Pension and Gratuity Fund by 20 billion. They should not over complicate and over think- return the 20 billion to our military, police and uniformed personnel pension and gratuity fund.”

Defensor also challenged the camp of Velasco to show to the public that they did not use it as pork barrel fiund.

Deputy Speaker and Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves said Defensor’s accusations were “part of an obvious attempt to antagonize Speaker Velasco.”

“It was obviously premeditated with some members of the so-called ‘BTS sa Kongreso’ present to interpellate Defensor and tried but failed to amplify the allegations against Speaker Velasco,” Teves said referring to Back To Service sa Kongreso formed by Cayetano in January.

Teves added that the game plan of Cayetano’s camp was to make Velasco “look bad in the eyes of President Duterte by attacking the Speaker on an issue very close to the Chief Executive’s heart—the pension and gratuity pay of police and military retirees.”

Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza, meanwhile, blasted Cayetano’s group for hypocrisy following the revelation of Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab that the Cayetano-led House manipulated the 2020 national budget, which resulted in budget cuts totaling P209 billion, including the P70 billion slashed from pension and gratuity fund.

“Umaalma sila sa binawas na P20 billion na napunta naman sa COVID-19 response ng gobyerno pero ‘yung P70 bilyon at kabuuang P209 bilyon na tinapyas nila sa 2020 national budget e okay lang sa kanila,” said Atienza.

Defensor said it is not true that the P20 billion went to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

He said that based on the copy of the General Appropriations Act, the budget for vaccines remained at P2.5 billion.

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