The App Store reportedly hosts over a dozen apps made by a Chinese paramilitary group that is tied to the Uyghur genocide, in contravention of a US blacklist.
As Facebook has been attempting to combat malware targeting Uyghur Muslims in China, and Apple has reportedly been hosting apps potentially made by the same developers.
According to The Information, the Apple App Store hosts over a dozen apps created by assorted divisions of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. This is a paramilitary organization which is in charge of the Xinjiang region of China.
The Corps have previously been accused by multiple Western governments, and human rights groups, of detaining, abusing, or sterilizing up to two million Uyghurs. China has repeatedly denied the accusations but, separately, the region’s government has also been accused of tracking the Uyghur Muslim community through hacked websites and iOS vulnerabilities.
Hosting the apps would appear to be in violation of the US Treasury Department’s blacklist which bans American firms conducting business with groups including the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
The Information says that Apple has issued a statement saying that it had reviewed the apps, and concluded each complied with US law. The US Treasury Department has not commented.
Apple has previously been fined for hosting apps by a blacklisted company. It paid $467,000 to the Treasury over what it described as having “inadvertently paid a developer on [the] US Treasury’s List of Specially Designated Nationals.”
In that case, Apple voluntarily disclosed its mistake. However, the Treasury still said that Apple had “demonstrated reckless disregard for US sanctions requirements.”
The Chinese government’s actions against the Uyghurs, and other groups, have officially been called genocide by the US State Department. The US response has included a Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, although Apple has previously been accused of lobbying to weaken the bill.
As US/China trade tensions worsened over recent years, Apple has also joined other technology companies in working to reduce its reliance on the country.
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