Monday, 24 February 2020 01:04

Shareholders to grill Apple over human rights abuses in China at AGM Featured

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Shareholders to grill Apple over human rights abuses in China at AGM Gerd Altmann Pixabay

As Apple gets ready to explain its iPhone production strategy to shareholders in the wake of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak in China at its annual general meeting on 26 February, another group of shareholders is set to take Apple to task over its human rights record in that country.

Apple shareholders belonging to consumer activist group Sumofus.org - 13 of them - are preparing to table a petition at the AGM, with more than 105,000 signatures at the time of writing, which demands that Apple “stop blocking VPNs in China and uphold freedom of expression”.

According to Sumofus.org, unlike some other tech companies, Apple has complied with the government of China's censorship demands in order to operate there.

The activist group says that Apple has recently admitted to removing 517 apps from its iPhone Appstore at the request of China’s Government, as well as admitting in 2017 that the company blocked more than 600 VPN apps.



“Without VPN’s and with the enormous surveillance machine of the government of China, it’s almost impossible for activists to evade censorship and surveillance in order to report human rights abuses when they are committed, without putting themselves in even greater danger. Apple is complicit in that,” Sumofus.org says.

In December 2019, Apple came under fire for removing an app called HKMap Live, which allowed Hong Kong residents to track the location of police in the region.

Apple’s excuse, as aired by CEO Tim Cook in an internal memo, was that the app was being used to target individual police officers for violence. Of course, Cook also admitted that he got this information from the China approved police authorities in Hong Kong.

According to Sumofus.org, Apple has made an attempt to silence the group’s attempt to highlight the company’s alleged complicity in human rights abuses within China at the upcoming AGM.

“Apple set their lawyers on us to try to stop us and shut down our shareholder proposal, but they failed,” Sumofus.org said in a statement.

“The government of China is persecuting ethnic groups like Uygher Muslims. People in concentration camps are cut off from family. Every detail of their lives is controlled. Many are punished and endure brutal torture.

“Of course, the government of China is no stranger to brutal repression. It has committed large scale human rights abuses against the Tibetan people for decades using the same argument -- combating extremism and terrorism -- that it’s using to justify mass detention and surveillance of Uyghur Muslims now.

“Are Apple’s profits more important than the lives of the millions of Uyghurs, Tibetans and Chinese rights activists surveilled and detained?

“Just as companies like IBM collaborated with the Nazi Party in the 1930s, Apple today is hiding a terrible complicity behind the shiny gleam of its iPhones.

“But we won’t let Apple get away with it.

“When we demanded Google stop working with the government of China to develop a censorship app called Project Dragonfly, we won. Let’s do the same now with Apple.”

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Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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