By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Aug 1: Tibetans and Uyghurs held a protest at the Apple store in Washington D.C. to voice objection against the tech giant’s role censorship in China on Friday. The protest was held after Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook’s appearance before a Congressional panel on Wednesday.
Protestors held banners and face masks on which Apple logo had been changed to resemble the logo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The protest was organised by activist groups including SumOfUs, Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) and Uyghur American Association. The statement said that Apple had deleted over 1000 Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) apps from China App store at the request of CCP in recent years which has made Tibetans, Uyghurs, and citizens of Hong Kong and other human rights defenders vulnerable to government surveillance and repression.
The protestors at the site expressed their solidarity with Hong Kong where Beijing enforced the national security law a month ago. Sondhya Gupta, SumOfUs’ Campaign manager said, “[Chinese] government is so emboldened by years of coddling by corporations like Apple, it is expanding its unprecedented censorship machine and actually removing books from libraries in Hong Kong.”
Pema Doma, SFT Campaign Director of SFT, said that Apple is one of the leading companies in establishing global norms around technology and innovation and further warned that “Apple’s actions today will affect the privacy and digital security of billions for generations to come, especially in places like Tibet that are ruled by authoritarian regimes.” She urged Apple to start respecting the rights of all its consumers and stop kowtowing to dictators.
Irade Kashgary from the Uyghur American Association criticised Apple for pretending to support freedom and privacy while at the same time enforcing surveillance and oppression in China, “As we stand here beside allies who have also faced immense persecution at the hands of the CCP, we trust that our voices are getting stronger and louder, as we continue to work together so that censorship and oppression will never be tolerated in China or internationally.”