The Chinese government's crackdown on the internet continues with the news that Apple has removed all major VPN apps, which help internet users overcome the country's censorship system, from the App Store in China.
The move was first noted by ExpressVPN, a service provider based outside of China, which stated in an article "all major VPN apps" including its own had been purged from Apple's China-based store. The company shared a note from Apple explaining that its app was removed due to the fact that "it includes content that is prohibited in China."
The app continues to be offered for users across the world outside of China, the company stated. However, the process to create an App Store account in a various country is unknown to numerous users, so it is not likely to fill the void of the missing Chinese app.
The App Store purge is extremely impactful due to the fact that VPNs represent the only way that a China-based person can bypass state censorship controls to access the internet without limitations. The Chinese government effectively illegalized VPNs when new rules issued in January required them to receive government approval in order to operate. That appears to be why Apple was forced to remove ExpressVPN and others like it.
Apple might think it is best for its business to co-operate with requests from Beijing, however this App Store purge simply created one of the most significant setbacks for the free internet in China's history.