Sen. Marco Rubio lambasted Apple during a hearing Wednesday for its continued kowtowing to communist China, which notoriously censors free speech online. Rubio took particular issue with Apple CEO Tim Cook, who spoke at the World Internet Conference in China earlier this month.
“The most confusing part of it all is that Apple CEO Tim Cook stood up at that conference and he celebrated China’s vision of an open internet,” Rubio said, referring to how China censors the internet. “He delivered the keynote speech on the opening day of that gathering.”
President Trump has repeatedly called out China for taking advantage of the U.S. government and American companies. Rubio made the comments at Wednesday’s hearing on “The Long Arm of China: Exporting Authoritarianism With Chinese Characteristics.”
Apple made headlines earlier this year when, at China’s request, the company removed hundreds of VPN apps from its app store because Chinese users might be able to freely access information through the technology, something China would not tolerate.
“Apple admitted that it had removed 674 VPN apps from its App Store in China,” Rubio continued. “These are tools that allow users, of course, to circumvent censorship by routing traffic through other countries and to comply with, what they said they were complying with.”
Senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy wrote a joint letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier this year calling him out for removing the apps. Privacy experts worry it could set a bad precedent for American countries in China.
“We think that Apple might not realize the full repercussions of removing VPN apps from China since there are also many freedom fighters or those in opposition to the government who need VPNs to remain anonymous or face a serious danger to their safety,” said Marty P. Kamden, CEO of NordVPN.
Rubio finished by twisting the knife:
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“So again, here’s an example of a company, in my view, so desperate to have access to the Chinese market place that they are willing to follow the laws of that country even if those laws run counter to what those companies’ own standards are supposed to be. And a good example for the United States and for our people, how some of these individuals like to come here and lecture us about free speech and human rights and domestic problems, then go abroad and are fully cooperative on some grotesque violation of human rights because there’s a lot of money to be made, and they don’t want to offend their host country.”