China’s famous internet censorship laws are at it again, this time focusing on Virtual Private Networks or VPNs. And its Apple that has found itself at the receiving end of the changed circumstances given that it has been forced to remove those apps from its official Chinese app store that rely on VPNs.
Apple said they received notification about changes introduced to Chinese laws pertaining to the use of VPNs. Unfortunately, those have rendered a vast majority of their VPN apps illegal in China, forcing the company to delink those from their China App Store immediately.
Apple however has also stated the apps would continue to function normally in those countries and regions where local laws do not prohibit the use of VPNs. Chinese regulators have made it mandatory for all VPN providers within the country to obtain a license from the government to continue operating.
Not surprisingly, the move has drawn strong criticism from the several VPN operators like ExpressVPN or Star VPN that are active in China. That Apple too is seen giving in to the Chinese government’s policies has not gone done well with them as well. That said, Apple has no other choice either given that it is bound to abide with the local laws to continue doing business in the country.
The reason why the move against VPN in China is being accorded so much importance is because it served as the last remaining life line for those championing the cause of free speech and civil liberties in the country. China continues being strictly an authoritarian regime in spite of it being the most populous country in the world.
Chinese regulators are also known to pounce on all known sources dissidents are likely to use to voice their concern against the regime. Under the circumstances, the VPNs served as a means for the populace to bypass the strict internet censoring laws and access sites otherwise blocked in the country by law.
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The affected apps are likely still accessible to those who have a billing address outside of China. However, not many could even be aware of creating an App Store account in a different country and hence might not be able to access the apps which continue to be available outside of China.
The move has also irked many professionals who need unrestricted access of the internet for their work. VPN served their interest well all this while but the move to ban VPN has spelled doom to them.
However, with the entire Google Play Store not applicable to China, it remains to be seen how the move would affect Android users in the country.