Bradley Thayer is the director of China policy at the Center for Security Policy – a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. He is also co-author of the book “Understanding the China Threat”. 

He said Apple should be held accountable for blocking Chinese residents from using certain iPhone features to talk, text, and share content before the massive protests against Beijing’s strict Zero-COVID policies.

He called Apple’s actions “egregious.” He pointed out that it was odd that Apple released iOS 16.1.1, a new version of its mobile operating system, on November 9.

The update made a change that only affected people in China. Messages shared through AirDrop can only be received for 10 minutes if the sender is not on the contact list. Before, there was a setting that let messages come in from anyone for an unlimited amount of time. 

This rule has made it harder for Chinese protesters to coordinate and share time-sensitive information about where they are and what they are doing, as well as the activities of security forces rounding up protesters.

In the program China in Focus on NTD, Thayer said:

“By modifying the iPhone’s AirDrop feature, it only shows that [CEO] Tim Cook is working with [Chinese Chairman] Xi Jinping. And that should be unacceptable for all freedom-loving people around the world. And there has to be an account for that decision by Apple to generate the support for Xi Jinping at that critical time, where you might have had a movement continue.” 

He added:

“What might it have been if AirDrop had been enabled fully? So it might have been able to be an even greater movement than what we witnessed in the last 14 days.”

The China expert said that Apple needs to answer for what it did, which was to help stop the protests and work with the Chinese government to do so. They must be asked about that behavior and held accountable for their actions.

He went into more detail about how other tech companies are linked to the Chinese government, taking Google as an example. 

He said:

“But Google and others, many other tech firms, of course, and then manufacturing firms, too work hand in glove with the Chinese regime, and for decades, to suppress human rights within China, and to legitimize the Chinese Communist Party, when in fact, it should be delegitimized.”

There are claims that Google has been working with a top artificial intelligence (AI) research group at Tsinghua University. Tsinghua University is a well-known Chinese university that also does AI research for the Chinese military.

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