Sen. Marco Rubio says Apple bending to Chinese authoritarianism to gain market access
Speaking at a Congressional hearing on Wednesday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio took Apple CEO Tim Cook to task for his policies on China, accusing him of hypocrisy when it comes to the company's stated values.
"So again, here's an example of a company, in my view, so desperate to have access to the Chinese marketplace 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," Rubio said during the hearing, titled "The Long Arm of China: Exporting Authoritarianism With Chinese Characteristics." The comments were spotted by 9to5Mac.
"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," Rubio continued.
The senator drew special attention to Cook's recent appearance at the World Internet Conference, an event organized by the Chinese government and intended to promote its desire for a more strictly controlled internet. The CEO made broad references to some of Apple's priorities in the West — such as privacy — but skirted any potentially confrontational positions.
"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. "He delivered the keynote speech on the opening day of that gathering."
Apple and other U.S. corporations have often been accused of being quick to agree to Chinese government demands, owing to the size of the market and the presence of key suppliers. Apple for instance has pulled VPN titles from the App Store, and established a local data center — making it easier for the government to access and control user data if it's deemed necessary.
Rubio is a Republican, but Cook has also faced criticism from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who said Apple has a "moral obligation" to resist China's surveillance and censorship. Apple has claimed that it makes a difference simply by being in other countries, and Cook in particular has defended his World Internet Conference appearance.
"Your choice is: do you participate, or do you stand on the sideline and yell at how things should be," he said in a recent interview. "And my own view very strongly is you show up and you participate, you get in the arena because nothing ever changes from the sideline."