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Apple pulls VPN apps from Chinese App Store in compliance with government crackdown

Apple has removed virtual private network (VPN) apps from the Chinese App Store, apparently complying with a broader government crackdown on VPN technology.

Developer ExpressVPN received a notification about its app's removal early on Saturday, according to a blog post. The firm said that checks showed "all major" VPN apps have been pulled, although people using App Stores based outside China should be unaffected, even if they're residing in the country.

The Chinese government recently began shutting down unauthorized VPNs, which were one of the few ways people could circumvent the country's "Great Firewall" censorship technology. Indeed a group of new cybersecurity laws have come into effect, for instance requiring foreign companies with Chinese user data to store it on local servers.

Earlier this month Apple launched its first Chinese data center in cooperation with Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry, precisely for the sake of complying.

ExpressVPN's notification.

Sudden removals — or crippled services — can be an occasional cost of doing business in China. Facebook's WhatsApp was recently hobbled by the Great Firewall for instance, and in January Apple was forced to pull the New York Times app.