Apple removes VPN Apps from China App Store

ExpressVPN blog:

We received notification from Apple today, July 29, 2017, at roughly 04:00 GMT, that the ExpressVPN iOS app was removed from the China App Store. Our preliminary research indicates that all major VPN apps for iOS have been removed.

Users in China accessing a different territory’s App Store (i.e. they have indicated their billing address to be outside of China) are not impacted; they can download the iOS app and continue to receive updates as before.


We’re disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties.

Apple’s notice to VPN developers in the China App Store says, in part:

We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China.

  • Want to be in a country? Follow their rules.

    • The Cappy

      Want to be an accomplice to oppression?

      • CapnVan

        Sorry, where do you live? Who’s your government oppressing?

        Do you usually feel comfortable telling corporations to ignore the law in other countries?

      • You have one option: Get out of the country. That’s it.

        • Veronicakpickens


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    • Meaux

      Yet when law enforcement in the US told them to unlock the phone of a mass shooting suspect, they fought a big, public battle with the government. So what is good, meekly accede to government orders or publicly fight?

      • It’s a very different battle. You just saw how easy it is to drop apps, and how little consequence it has for core security for everything else about the product (i.e. none).

        • Meaux

          China also saw how little push back they’ll get from Apple. Part of the reason you fight on things like VPN is to provide ammo for future harder fights. If you roll over at the first sign of resistance, the other side will think they can do that for everything.

          • Apple removes locally illegal apps or apps that break cellular contracts from the store. They’ve done it before, they’ll do it again. If you think this is the thin edge of a wedge, you’ll have to go back many years to find when it started. First one I remember was 2010, but I’m sure it dates back further.

      • CapnVan

        When the FBI demanded they unlock the phone, they didn’t have any legal standing to do so.

  • The Cappy
    • CapnVan

      Actually, that’s an incredibly awful take on the subject.

  • brandon hayes

    Apple’s singular focus on money rears its head again.

    • CapnVan

      Right — obeying local law is nothing more than an expression of greed.

      • brandon hayes

        If they had ethics they’d bow out of business in China altogether. But the money is too great.

        • It’s really not that simple.

          Even without VPN support, is the iPhone a net gain to consumers on the privacy front? Absolutely.

          So bowing out gives Chinese citizens less privacy, and isn’t an ethical move.

          • Meaux

            What happens when the Chinese government legislates a back door? Apple has already provided precedent to going along.

          • Apple fights it as long as they can, then has to decide whether to comply or get out. I imagine at that point they’ll get out, or find a compromise (such as disabling encryption at all in some areas for China).

        • Or, they can stay in business in China and hope to effect changes, just as Nixon did when he went in the 70s and reopened trade/gave MFN status with them. China is far from perfect, but it is nowhere near what it was like then. We tried embargoes on business with Cuba for years and it did nothing but hurt the people there more; so opening that up again should help in the long run, also.

          There is a trick to balancing it all, but it is much more complicated than just saying don’t do business in a country at all.

        • Walt French

          SO…you’re saying that refusing to do business in the world’s largest country—leaving users to a host of local competitors who are even MORE under government control—saves privacy a lot.

          I don’t think you have ever done a thing to advance users’ privacy or you wouldn’t say that.

          • Meaux

            Yes, because it doesn’t set a precedent in other markets as well. Pulling out of China keeps the problem in China. Acceding to China leaves you vulnerable to other governments telling you what to do with no good explanation for resisting.

        • CapnVan

          Oh, I see. The ethical thing to do is leave the market. Does that apply to Android, too?

          Russia just banned VPNs. Do they have to leave Russia?

          You don’t use any petroleum products do you? Say from awful dictatorships like KSA or Angola?

          You don’t use anything with coltan in it, do you?

          Or does this just apply to Apple?

          • brandon hayes

            No, it applies to all companies in any country that censors their population. Sorry this is such a difficult concept for some people to grok.

          • It isn’t. The problem is it’s a very wrong-heded concept.

            As long as iOS is a net win for privacy for Chinese consumers, pulling out is unethical. That’s not even counting whether the Chinese consumers like having the phone even if it’s a net zero.

          • Meaux

            Google left China. And because you can install apps directly on Android, it doesn’t really matter. Apple chose to be the single chokepoint onto their OS, therefore they get the blame when they do the bidding of an oppressive government without leaving an out.

            I also think Yahoo is despicable for giving their information leading to the jailing of journalists, despite the fact they were required by law.

  • John Kordyback

    Although I’m disappointed with Apple on this one I suspect that this isn’t over. For example, the Chinese government wanted them to remove end-to-end encryption which they didn’t do.

    This is a continuing problem of companies working in foreign countries that I’ve seen elsewhere. For example, as a Canadian we are constantly dealing with the problems of working in the US with the Patriot Act hanging over our heads.

  • gardnervh

    Apple has to follow the laws of the country it operates in. Its that simple. Following the laws of the country you are operate in is a fundamental requirement.

    I would love to see one of these publications taking extremely cheap shots at Apple explain where they are openly breaking laws in countries they operate in.