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Apple comes under fire for removing dozens of VPNs from its Chinese app store

Apple has been accused of siding with censorship after removing dozens of virtual private networks (VPNs) from its Chinese app store.

The applications let citizens circumvent the country’s firewall by routing their browsing through another computer.

The company behind one of the affected apps, Express VPN, told the BBC it was dismayed by the decision and that Apple had “sided with censorship”.

Another firm said it would file an appeal.

“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,” said Sunday Yokubaitis, the president of the firm that makes VyprVPN.

Apple told the BBC it was legally required to remove the apps because they didn’t comply with China’s new regulations and that dozens of legal VPNs were still available.

One firm said more than 60 VPNs had been pulled, a figure not challenged by Apple when the BBC approached it for comment.

The move comes as Vladimir Putin has pledged to ban VPNs and Tor in a bid to obscure sites already prohibited in Russia.

The law will come into force at the start of November.

Jim Killock, executive director of UK digital rights campaign Open Rights Group, told NS Tech: “This shows how easy it can be for companies to make dangerous decisions about people’s rights. Apple should protect people’s free speech and privacy, wherever they are.”