A move by Apple to remove some of the VPN apps from its App Store in China has received criticism from all sides. Many believe that Apple does not want to sever its ties with China, which is an important market for the company in multiple ways, be it selling iPhones or manufacturing hardware in the mainland. According to the BBC, the U.S. firm pulled 60 VPN apps over the weekend.

Apple VPN apps
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Is Apple right to remove the VPN apps?

China has a strict filter system in place, referred to by many as the Great Firewall, however, with the VPN options made available on the Apple App Store, consumers could get some apps which are otherwise restricted in Mainland China.

Apple stated that it is just following the rules. The company stated that earlier this year, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information technology announced that all developers offering VPNs should obtain a license from the government. Therefore, the U.S. firm was left with no choice but to pull down those services which do not comply with the said regulations.

Others, however, do not agree with Apple’s decision.

Sunday Yokubaitis, President of Golden Frog, another VPN service removed from the App Store, stated, “We view access to internet in China as a human rights issue, and I would expect Apple to value human rights over profit.”

Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor that blew the whistle on the agency, also voiced concerns that Apple supports the Chinese authorities.

Mike Butcher of TechCrunch feels that Apple will have to face ire due to its actions, even at home.

“Apple has clearly decided to put its business before the interests of the population, opposition leaders and activists,” writes Butcher, adding that Apple’s recent action only shows its weak standing in front of the censors elsewhere.

ExpressVPN is one of the VPN apps removed from the Chinese App Store. In a blog post, ExpressVPN stated that the iPhone maker informed them of the recent development. The service also published a copy of the notice in which Apple stated that the app’s content is illegal in China. Another service, StarVPN, took to its official Twitter handle to inform users that it has received the notice, notes The Australian.

Love for China to blame

Apple is committed more than ever to expanding in China, and its recent efforts should be seen in light of that. Specifically, Apple’s move can be seen in the light of the company’s upcoming tenth anniversary iPhone. Since China is a crucial market that could make or break iPhone sales numbers, the U.S. firm does not want to take any chances by meddling with the Chinese government over regulation issues, notes Bloomberg.

Apple has never shied away from expressing the importance of China to its business. Greater China contributes almost 30% of its sales. Just a few days ago, the iPhone maker appointed Isabel Ge Mahe as its first vice president and managing director of Greater China. Apple created the role specifically for China.

“Apple is strongly committed to invest and grow in China, and we are thrilled that Isabel will be bringing her experience and leadership to our China team,” CEO Tim Cook said when announcing her appointment.