China can be a huge market for big aggressive companies that are looking for some great place for expansion and new sources of fresh revenues. The country offers a huge pool of manpower as well as an army of small specialized companies. However, China can also be a dangerous place for some businesses, especially those big tech US-based companies like Apple and Google, which have always come under pressure from both the Chinese government and the public media.  

The fight between Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters and the Chinese government has now reached a new height, threatening big tech companies operating within China border. Among the big headlines, this week, are Apple and Google. 

This week, Apple made a drastic decision when it removed a mobile app from the Chinese version of its App Store after hearing some complaints from the Chinese government. The story about Apple capitulating to the Chinese government is no longer new. The Cupertino-based company needs to protect its business interests in Mainland China, which include a vast number of consumer electronics supply chain and tech partners. By following the country’s censorship policies, the company can ensure the safety and continuity of its business in China. 

800px-Occupy_Central,_Queensway,_Admiralty,_Hong_Kong_29_September_2014_(Easterly) Easterly view of Occupy protest with Umbrella banner, 29 September 2014 Photo: Sirlanz/Wikimedia Creative Commons

Earlier this week, the tech giant has accepted the request of the Chinese government to remove the Taiwan flag emoji from its iOS 13 platform for iPhone users in Hong Kong and Macau regions. Last week, the tech giant removed the HKmap Live mobile app that helped Hong Kong-based protesters to track police movements.

Apple’s action quickly gained attention and received backlashes. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook justified the deletion of the HKmap Live app, claiming that the company has credible information that the app was being used to endanger law enforcement as well as Hong Kong residents.  Apple remained tight-lipped during the controversies involving the Chinese government. 

It's not just Apple! Google is also under pressure from the Chinese government. The Mountain View-based company has, recently, removed a Hong Kong protest role-playing game from the Google Play Store. The tech giant said, in a released statement, that the app has violated the company’s policies. Google also explained its side and denied the accusation that the role-playing game "Revolution of Our Times" was taken down due to a special request from the Chinese government.

In the latest press release, a Google spokesperson said that the company has a long-standing policy prohibiting developers from capitalizing on sensitive events, like attempting to make a business from serious ongoing conflicts (like the one in Hong Kong) or natural tragedies through the video game. 

Google employees are fighting back with the company’s recent decision to remove the app from the Google Play Store. Many were, reportedly, frustrated with the search giant’s decision to ban the mobile app.

The move has already resulted in a company-wide debate. The tech giant has already announced plans to change the rules of its office culture, suggesting that workers need to spend less time engaging in political debates while at work. 

Other tech firms accused of abiding the Chinese censorship policies against the Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors include the US-based game developer Activision Blizzard, which owns the gaming studio Blizzard that suspended the Hong Kong eSports player.