By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Dec. 19: A coalition of 154 activist groups representing Tibetan, Uyghur, Southern Mongolian, Hongkonger, Taiwanese, and Chinese people urged Apple CEO Tim Cook to uphold and enact the company’s human rights policy on Friday. It accused Apple for its “failure to protect freedom of information and expression” by blocking apps like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) from China’s App Store that help users evade censorship and surveillance.
The letter urged implementation of the new human rights policy Apple introduced in August. It highlighted Apple’s several failings including lobbying efforts to undermine responsibilities under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act; banning Hong Kong Apple Store employees from publicly supporting the pro-democracy movement; and failure to implement commitments in its human rights policy.
“We know you are aware of the extent of China’s repression across China, occupied Tibet, East Turkestan, Southern Mongolia, and most recently Hong Kong. It’s hard to overstate the chilling effect the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) censorship and surveillance regime has on freedom of expression, severely restricting and limiting the civil and political rights of those living under Chinese rule,” the letter further remarked.
It cited recent sentencing of pro-democracy activists and claimed that officials procured “evidence” used against them in court from a locked iPhone. The letter argued that the giant tech company should “take concrete steps” towards change instead of saying that its hands are tied given the national law.
The coalition in a press release said, “Shareholders filed a new proposal calling on Apple to report on how it is implementing the human rights policy, but Apple’s lawyers took action to prevent the proposal being discussed or voted on.” Campaigns Director at SFT Pema Doma said that by blocking the vote, Apple was bowing to CCP’s censorship demands by “brush[ing] Chinese, Uyghur, Tibetan and Hongkonger human rights under the carpet.”