- Thursday, 04 April 2013 16:12
- By: Christopher Williams, Technology Correspondent
Hao Peiqiang, the Beijing-based developer of the app said Apple told him it had taken the step because it “includes content that is illegal in China”.
The app, “jingdian shucheng”, offered access to ten books via the iPhone and iPad. Mr Hao said he believed three titles by Wang Lixiong, a political writer and activist, had prompted the ban, according to The Financial Times. Mr Wang is a prominent critic of Chinese policy in Tibet.
The removal of digital copies of his work from the App Store follows Apple’s humiliating public apology to Chinese customers earlier this week. Following weeks of sharp criticism in state-sponsored media, chief executive Tim Cook promised to improve the firm’s after-sales service, which had been branded a sign of “unparalleled arrogance” in The People's Daily.
Concern over Apple’s weakness in the booming Chinese smartphone market has been seen by investors as a potential problem for its continued growth.
It has been a major cause of a share price slump in recent months that has forced Mr Cook to repeatedly defend his strategy. The firm has been repeatedly rumoured to be developing a cheaper iPhone designed to court Chinese consumers but it has not yet revealed its plans.
“Friends of mine tell me that Apple has had a censorship policy in place for at least two years so I’m not sure if my app’s removal has anything to do with Apple’s recent trouble,” said Mr Hao.
“But the app has been operating normally for the last two months until now without any problems.”
Apple did not respond to questions about the removal of the app.
The apology over customer service was seen as a move by Apple to soothe relations and show willingness to adopt Chinese business practices to help its growth. But by bowing to Chinese government censorship demands, Apple risks criticism at home. Western web companies have found it impossible to operate in China, in part because of accusations of collusion in political suppression.
Google, for instance, eventually gave up offering its Chinese search engine after clashing with censors and the market is now dominated by the domestic firm Baidu, which has close government links. Tripadvisor, the travel reviews website, had to prove to officials that its Chinese operation would remove discussions about Tibet.