China is hinting that Apple is an accomplice in ongoing protests in Hong Kong over an app that tracks police movements. Apple initially rejected HKmap.live—which maps the location of police, pro-democracy protesters, and street closures based on user reports—but reversed course last week after critics noted the app's similarity to Google-owned Waze. Since landing in Hong Kong's iOS App Store on Saturday, HKmap has become the most downloaded travel app, and that's apparently irked someone at the state-run People's Daily, per the Guardian. A commentary published Wednesday not only claims Apple endorses increasingly violent "rioters," who are able to evade police, but suggests that approval of the "toxic" app "is hurting the feelings of the Chinese people [and] twisting the facts of Hong Kong affairs."
In what TechCrunch sees as "a not-so-veiled threat about continued access to the Chinese market," the commentary adds that "mixing business with politics, and even illegal acts" is "unwise and reckless" and will only bring trouble for Apple. It also blasts the company for making an unofficial anthem of the protests available in its music store. There's been no comment from Apple, which also faced criticism after rejecting the app. HKmap's developer said Apple, like the commentary, had at first claimed users could "evade law enforcement," which it says "is clearly not the case." Per Bloomberg, updates to Apple's iOS 13 operating system, which recently removed the Taiwanese flag from some iPhones sold in Hong Kong and Macau, also underscores "the difficult balance the company must strike in supporting free speech while appeasing China." (The NBA is in Beijing's bad books, too.)