Apple comes under fire for removing VPNs from App Store in China

Apple has ejected a number of VPN apps from its App Store over in China, including some big-name offerings from major providers, as VPN censorship takes another turn for the worse in the country.

This happened at the weekend, when ExpressVPN and VyprVPN – two of our top-rated VPN providers – found their apps dumped from the Chinese store, along with StarVPN.

Note that this is just for the App Store over in China, and these VPN apps still remain available elsewhere globally.

Apple told the VPN providers: “We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store review guidelines.”

Needless to say, the reaction from these companies was that of disappointment.

As the BBC reports, Sunday Yokubaitis, president of VyprVPN, commented: “If Apple views accessibility as a human right, we would hope Apple will likewise recognize internet access as a human right (the UN has even ruled it as such) and would choose human rights over profits.”

Drastic measure

ExpressVPN also published a blog post to say: “We’re disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties.”

The company further observed that “all major VPN apps for iOS” have been dumped from the App Store in China according to its research. A worrying prospect indeed, but not entirely surprising given the current climate in China.

All we’ve been hearing over the past month is stories concerning how the government is set to clamp down on VPNs. First of all we heard whispers about an outright ban, followed by Chinese authorities clarifying that only ‘unapproved’ VPNs would be banned – apparently a category which the likes of ExpressVPN and VyprVPN fall under.

Those two providers are actually the top two we recommend in our best VPN for China article, but there are other options in that feature for iOS users. Although if ExpressVPN is correct, these could have been dumped – or be on the verge of suffering that fate – as well.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).