"National and global debates will outlive us all, and, while important they do not govern the facts", said Cook in defense of Apple's decision. "In this case, we thoroughly reviewed them, and we believe this decision best protects our users".
The ongoing Hong Kong protests has dragged Apple into the battle, after the company chose to remove a number of apps from the iOS App Store that protestors were using to help coordinate their protests and keep themselves safe.
The dynamic, crowd-sourced app HKmap.live has become popular for helping people to navigate through the tear gas-filled streets in Hong Kong, a former British colony where pro-democracy protests have erupted since June against Beijing's creeping interference.
Apple's move, it said, was "clearly a political decision" created to suppress freedom and human rights in Hong Kong. However, over the past several days we received credible information, from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as from users in Hong Kong, that the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present. Apple went on to say the app threatens "public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement".
The company also said the Quartz app was taken down because it didn't comply with Chinese law.
In a Wednesday statement, Apple said that it had heard concerns about the app from many Hong Kong customers. The company did not immediately respond to a Gizmodo request for further confirmation or comment.
Charles Mok, a member of Hong Kong's legislative council, wrote to Cook saying he was "deeply disappointed with Apple's decision to ban the app, and would like to contest the claims made by Hong Kong police force".
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Most of the content on the app is generated by its users, HKmap said, adding that moderators delete anything that tries to "solicit, promote, or encourage criminal activity". Thursday's removal of the app drew immediate reprimands from Washington. President Trump has reportedly told China's leadership that he won't speak out in favour of the Hong Kong protesters as long as he gets favourable trade terms with the Chinese government. Back in 2017 Cook agreed to remove VPN apps from the Chinese edition of the App Store after the government complained they were being used to circumvent its "great firewall" network.
The People's Daily newspaper, in its commentary on Tuesday, said Apple did not have a sense of right and wrong, and ignored the truth.
A Hong Kong lawmaker has warned Apple from becoming an "accomplice for Chinese censorship and oppression", and expressed disappointment in the firm for banning a map app that helped Hong Kong protesters track police presence. A web version was also still viewable on iPhones.
Hong Kong's protests started in opposition to a now-abandoned extradition bill but have mushroomed in four months into a pro-democracy movement and an outlet for anger at social inequality in the Asian financial hub.
"Does the entire world have to suck up to the garbage Communist Party?" one commentator, Yip Lou Jie, said in an online forum, LIHKG, used by protesters in Hong Kong.
Several demonstrations were planned across Hong Kong last night and through the weekend, while several major conferences and other events have been called off, with the latest being an annual swimming race in the harbor.
"It sounds like they are being responsible".