By Tenzin Dharpo
Coalition of activists at NY's Grand Central Station. Oct. 17, 2019. Photo- SFT
DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 18: Activists representing different frontline communities such as Tibet, East Turkistan, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and global corporate watchdog SumOfUs on Thursday protested in front of Apple’s Grand Central Station store in New York city urging the tech giant to stop collaborating with China’s censorship apparatus and cease the unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression.
Activists carried banners that read, “I Want Apple to Stop Supporting China’s Crackdown on Freedom,” “I Want Apple to Stand up for Freedom,” “I Want Apple to support the People, not the CCP,” all projecting a uniform message that urged the US based company to halt its role in enabling China’s war on freedom of speech and repression.
The protest comes days after Apple removed HKmap.live; a crowdsourcing app being used by Hong Kong residents, journalists and tourists to see where protests and police build-up are taking place and essentially providing real-time information on places to avoid for safety. The move by apple is in conjunction with the company’s overwhelming compliance to China where the profit is lucrative.
In 2017, at Beijing’s request, the company took down over 1000 virtual private networks (VPN) from its App store which allows users in China and Chinese occupied regions to bypass the communist government’s iron-clad firewall and its censorship.
Sonam Tso, Campaigns and Communications Director at Students for a Free Tibet said, “We call on Apple to resist the oppressive influence of the Chinese government. Apple should know its consumers won’t stand for this kind of dangerous collusion.”
Fellow protestor, Sondhya Gupta, Campaign Manager at SumOfUs said, “Apple’s behaviour highlights the sacrifices, in terms of human rights and free expression, that corporations choose to make in order to operate in China. Worse, the company has refused to listen when human rights activists raised the alarm.
“Tech companies’ attitude of ‘break stuff and fix it later’ falls short when it’s people’s lives that are broken. With a proactive commitment to freedom of expression, Apple could have avoided this damage to its brand and, most importantly, human lives. We urge them to do so now.”