How far will Apple go in its business opportunism? Its decision to block VPNs on Chinese iPhones endangers many Internet users including journalists and their sources. In the following (tongue-in-cheek) open letter, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) advises Apple China’s new managing director how to please the Chinese leadership even more. News Help by sharing this information ChinaAsia – Pacific Online freedoms InternetCitizen-journalistsWhistleblowersFreedom of expressionPredatorsNobel PrizeRSF Prize China’s Cyber Censorship Figures Receive email alerts June 2, 2021 Find out more News ChinaAsia – Pacific Online freedoms InternetCitizen-journalistsWhistleblowersFreedom of expressionPredatorsNobel PrizeRSF Prize Follow the news on China Organisation © Robin Grassi / RSF News Dear Isabel Ge Mahe,We have learned of your appointment as managing director of Apple China. At the same time, we have also learned of Apple’s decision to remove VPNs that are not registered in China from its Chinese App Store. This is a shame. These apps enable Internet users, including many journalists and their sources, to protect themselves from surveillance and to connect to sites that are banned in China, including Facebook, Google and Wikipedia.By actively helping to reinforce the “Great Firewall”, your company obviously hopes to ingratiate itself with the authorities of a country where it does not enjoy the same dominant position that it holds internationally. We don’t doubt that the authorities will return the favour by allowing Apple to continue competing with local firms in China, and by silencing NGOs that, like China Labour Watch, criticize working conditions in your suppliers’ factories in China.But it would be a pity if your economic opportunism stopped half-way, so we would like to offer five tips on how to better adapt Apple’s business model to the “Chinese Dream’s” special characteristics:1/ A home screen honouring the new “Great Helmsman.” With just weeks to go to the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th congress, a home screen showing President Xi Jinping would be much appreciated as a business gesture. You will of course take care to avoid photos of Xi looking too much like Winnie the Pooh, the Walt Disney character used by Chinese Internet users to caricature him.2/ A keyboard “with Chinese characteristics.” The iOS operating system would work just as well without the emojis that are used to bypass censorship, such as the coffin or the tears alluding to Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel peace laureate who died in detention. Similarly, the numbers 4, 6, 8 and 9 (used to allude to the Tiananmen Square massacre on 4 June 1989) would be rebaptised 3+, 5+, 7+ and 8+, like iPhones.3/ A patriotic App Store. Why not restrict the Chinese App Store to state-controlled apps, such as those of the Xinhua news agency and the national TV broadcaster CCTV, the messaging service WeChat and the search engine Baidu? The Chinese public would be grateful to you for protecting them from the influence of western government propaganda.4/ File sharing with the Party’s extended family. The iTunes and Apple TV apps allow us to share audio and video files with our entire family. Apple would pull off a planetary publicity coup by extending iPhone content sharing to the extended family that is the Chinese Communist Party. That would silence critics such as Edward Snowden who accuse Apple of reserving this privilege for the US intelligence agencies.5/ A connected watch for every prisoner of conscience. By offering an Apple watch to every jailed activist, journalist and blogger, you would demonstrate your humanitarian commitment while allowing the international community to use the Health app to monitor exactly how long each detainee – such as the journalist Huang Qi or Liu Xiaobo’s widow Liu Xia – has been held and how much their health is worsening in detention – in real time.If you take a look at RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, you will see that authoritarian regimes constitute a fast-growing market. Mass surveillance employs 2 million people in China alone and has a turnover in the billions of dollars. Ranked 176th out of 180 countries, China has more than 100 journalists and online journalists in its prisons. This “success” is due in part to firms such as Apple that assist its censorship.If generalized, the pragmatic approach you have taken will guarantee Apple autocratic clients the world over and will enable its shareholders to get even richer. Human rights seem to weigh little against stock quotation in Cupertino.With annual earnings similar to the GDPs of Finland, Ireland or Denmark, Apple could nonetheless allow itself to be a bit tougher with China’s authoritarian rulers. Or else freedom of information will be no more than a distant memory in this digital golden future you are helping to create.Cédric AlvianiDirector of RSF’s East Asia bureau April 27, 2021 Find out more March 12, 2021 Find out more China: Political commentator sentenced to eight months in prison RSF_en August 8, 2017 – Updated on March 26, 2019 Five tips for Apple on how to please China’s rulers to go further Democracies need “reciprocity mechanism” to combat propaganda by authoritarian regimes News
Spirits were high this past weekend and music filled the streets. Roanoke, VA harnessed hundred of runners from all over the country eager to tackle one of the US’s most challenging races, the Blue Ridge Marathon. In conjunction, the Down By Downtown music festival gave runners and non-runners alike the option to tap their feet in 6 different venues and listen to over 50 different bands perform.Early Saturday morning, April 16th, runner after runner made their way past the Blue Ridge Outdoors booth. Reluctantly glancing at the steep, unforgiving hills that surround Roanoke, racers approached the starting line. Looking forward to kicking off a group hike that Live Outside and Play and Walkabout Outfitter had been planning for weeks in advance, I myself was anxious to experience the terrain. With the ringing of the starting pistol still echoing in my ear, our first eager participant approached the BRO booth. Soon, 23 people had arrived.Our route to the top of Mill Mountain would, we later found, weave right through the racing action. Cowbells and loud cheers rang out from locations all over the city. From busy streets through intersections filled with spectators, pavement soon turned to trail and only the faintest of cheering could be heard. The morning sun began to feel warm as we climbed further away from the crowds below. Multiple participants on the hike were experiencing Roanoke’s hiking trails for the first time, having lived there their entire lives. One family in particular made all my efforts worth the while. I dropped back from my middle position in the long single file line that climbed the narrow trail, and filed in suit all the way in the back for a chance to speak with them. In doing so I could hear the excitement in their voices and see their wide eyes processing the tranquility they had found.It’s always uplifting to see the wide eyes of a person who just stepped onto a hiking trail for the first time. Although surprising to hear of such a thing, I find great joy in providing somebody with such a rewarding experience. The quiet of the forest and the crunch of leaves beneath my feet reminded me how important and monumental hiking has been in my life. I can’t imagine life without walking in the woods. Reaching the top of Mill Mountain, though urban, was as far in the backcountry as these folks had ever been. Peering out over the city, I couldn’t help but smile. Who knows what this short walk in the woods had done for that mother and her two kids. Perhaps I was able to introduce them to something life-changing, confidence-building, maybe the quiet was exactly what they needed. However it affected them, that day they stood proudly soaking in the beauty of their hometown.– Adam R. Stay up-to-date with all-things Live Outside and Play by following our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter feeds! Coming soon to a mountain town near you.