Lawmakers condemn Apple, Activision Blizzard over censorship of Hong Kong protesters

Lawmakers condemn Apple, Activision Blizzard over censorship of Hong Kong protesters
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A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Friday sent letters to two tech giants over accusations that they were censoring pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong to protect business interests in China.

Members of the House and Senate panned both Apple and Acitivison Blizzard over actions they said suppressed “criticism of the Chinese government in hopes of gaining higher profits.”

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Apple has come under fire for its decision to remove from its app store HKMap.live, a volunteer-run crowdsourced app that tracks the protests in Hong Kong.

Activision Blizzard has also drawn criticism for suspending Hong Kong-based player Chung Ng Wai from competing in esports for a year and revoking his prize money after he endorsed the pro-democracy demonstrations in a post-game interview. 

“Apple’s decisions last week to accommodate the Chinese government by taking down HKMaps is deeply concerning,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook. “We urge you in the strongest terms to reverse course, to demonstrate that Apple puts values above market access, and to stand with the brave men and women fighting for basic rights and dignity in Hong Kong.” 

In a separate letter to Activision Blizzard CEO Robert Kotick, lawmakers wrote: “As China amplifies its campaign of intimidation, you and your company must decide whether to look beyond the bottom line and promote American values—like freedom of speech and thought—or to give in to Beijing’s demands in order to preserve market access. We urge you in the strongest terms to reconsider your decision with respect to Mr. Chung.”

Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocratic senators introduce bill to block funding for border wall live stream Booker, Sanders propose new federal agency to control drug prices Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant MORE (D-Ore.), Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonTom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Schumer concerned by Army's use of TikTok, other Chinese social media platforms Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising MORE (R-Ark.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump Paul's demand to out whistleblower rankles GOP colleagues MORE (R-Fla.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators at White House Senators confirm Erdoğan played 'propaganda' video in White House meeting MORE (R-Texas) and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezJane Fonda leads DC climate protest for sixth straight Friday Ocasio-Cortez: 'Trump himself is clearly not satisfied with only one article of impeachment' The Hill's Campaign Report: Late bids surprise 2020 Democratic field MORE (D-N.Y.), Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherProgressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising Hillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship Lawmakers condemn Apple, Activision Blizzard over censorship of Hong Kong protesters MORE (R-Wis.) and Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiDiplomat ties Trump closer to Ukraine furor Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Warren doubles down — to Democrats' chagrin, and Trump's delight MORE (D-N.J.) all signed onto the letter to Apple, while Wyden, Rubio, Ocasio-Cortez, Gallagher and Malinowski also signed onto the letter to Activision Blizzard.

Neither company immediately responded to requests for comment from The Hill.

Cook has defended Apple’s decision to remove the HKMap.live app from its store, saying in an email to staffers obtained by The Verge that “the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present.”

Blizzard Entertainment, which is owned by Activision Blizzard, said it will would reduce Chung's suspension to six months and let him keep the prize money.

Protesters in Hong Kong have enjoyed bipartisan support on Capitol Hill during their months-long demonstrations. 

The protests have again been thrust into the spotlight over the NBA’s handling of a now-deleted tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressing solidarity with pro-democracy protesters and its statements expressing regrets to any offended Chinese fans and condemning Morey.