Tech giant Apple has removed Bible and Quran apps from its Chinese App Store at the behest of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials, drawing multi-denominational backlash in the West.
For example, the Olive Tree Bible App, a widely used Bible app that includes dozens of tools such as audio Bibles, commentaries, study Bibles, devotionals, translation tools, and more, was told its app was had been removed from Apple’s Chinese App Store over permitting issues.
“Olive Tree Bible Software was informed during the App Store review process that we are required to provide a permit demonstrating our authorization to distribute an app with book or magazine content in mainland China,” a spokesperson from Olive Tree told the Washington Examiner. “Since we did not have the permit and needed to get our app update approved and out to customers, we removed our Bible app from China’s App Store. We are currently reviewing the requirements to obtain the necessary permit with the hope that we can restore our app to China’s App Store and continue to distribute the Bible worldwide.”
Quran Majeed, used by 35 million Muslims worldwide, is available on the App Store in dozens of countries globally but was removed from China’s app store last week, as noted by Apple watchdog website AppleCensorship.com.
The CCP did not respond to requests for comment from the BBC, but the app’s developer, PDMS, told the British outlet that it was because Quran Majeed “includes content that requires additional documentation from Chinese authorities. We are trying to get in touch with the Cyberspace Administration of China and relevant Chinese authorities to get this issue resolved.”
The CCP has attracted growing international criticism over its treatment of the Muslim Uighur population, which it justifies it as necessary to prevent extremism. Under former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the United States classified China’s treatment of the Uighur population as genocide.
Although the CCP has taken a softer approach towards restricting religion and even claims to protect its citizens’ religious freedom, the last year has seen a sharp increase in targeted state pressure on unauthorized churches and religious gatherings.
Religious organizations in China are required to register with the state and are subject to regulations that dictate what they can teach and how they can conduct their ministries and religious outreach. The CCP has also rewritten religious texts, including the Bible, to reflect communist ideology. Those religious groups that don’t adhere to the government’s dictates are subject to arrest, imprisonment, and even torture.
Earlier this year, a scathing report from The New York Times (which has itself been accused of taking a remarkably soft stance towards the Chinese communist regime) detailed how Apple’s gentle approach to the CCP’s human rights abuses and egregious censorship undermine the company’s carefully curated image of a values-oriented company.
The Times found that Apple shares data with the Chinese government, stores user data on servers operated by a CCP-run company, and routinely removes apps from its store at the behest of government officials, including apps that could in any way be perceived as hostile or dissenting to the authoritarian regime. This includes a training process and special software for app reviewers to detect any topics that “Apple has deemed off limits in China.”
In a sickening irony, however, Apple has not shied away from criticizing American leaders here at home for so-called discriminatory polices, including President Donald Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban,” which only established a more stringent vetting process for migrants coming from nations known to be state sponsors of terror.
Chinese corporate leaders enjoy no such freedom to criticize their own government’s treatment of Muslims, but what’s more, Apple appears to cooperate with the regime just about as much as their own brow-beaten app developers.
This is not the behavior of a values-oriented company. This is the behavior of wickedly immoral capitalist tycoons who care more about China’s massive customer base and manufacturing resources than about standing up to the most technologically advanced tyrants the world has ever known.