Apple has issued a statement regarding last night’s removal of ‘most major’ VPN apps from the App Store in China. Unsurprisingly, Apple says that it is complying with regulations put in place by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology earlier this year that require VPN apps to be licensed by the government.
VPN apps and services currently represent one of the only ways that a person living in China can bypass state censorship controls that prevent access to many websites and services based on their content or potential content. In January, the MIIT issued new regulations that required VPN apps to be explicitly licensed by the government in China. Currently there are some big state-owned companies that provide licensed VPNs, but this sweep removes most of the well-known and well-used VPNs from the store, making it harder for the average citizen to bypass monitoring and censorship.
Apple’s full statement is as follows:
Earlier this year China’s MIIT announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government. We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.
You can read more on the ban and the recent history of China’s censorship efforts here.