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Tim Cook, photo by JStone via Shutterstock
Oh, hi Xi ... Apple boss Tim Cook

A pair of senior US Senators are calling out Apple CEO Tim Cook for what they call "enabling the Chinese government's censorship and surveillance of the internet."

Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ted Cruz (R-Zodiac) said this week they are concerned about how quickly Apple caved to demands from the Chinese government to remove VPN apps from its China App Store.

"As you know, China has an abysmal human rights record, including with respect to the rights to free expression and free access to information, both online and offline," the open letter [PDF] to Cook read.

The pair of legislators went on rattle off a few of the more damaging accusations against China – specifically, its crappy record on human rights – before noting that Cook himself was recently lauded for his support of free speech as the CEO of Apple.

Then, they proceed to bring up the incident earlier this summer, when Cook admitted that obeying to censorship demands and pulling VPN apps was just the cost of doing business.

"While Apple's many contributions to the global exchange of information are admirable, removing VPN apps that allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the internet privately does not enable people in China to 'speak up'," the letter reads.

"To the contrary, if Apple complies with such demands from the Chinese government it inhibits free expression for users across China, particularly in light of the Cyberspace Administration of China's new regulations targeting online anonymity."

Now, the bipartisan duo want Cook to explain himself and issue a response to 10 of their questions, including whether Apple was personally asked to pull the VPN apps by Chinese officials, what the biz did to oppose the demands, and how the iPhone maker expressed its concerns, if any, to the Chinese government before its latest anti-internet-freedom laws were enacted.

Additionally, they want to know what, if anything, Apple has done to promote free speech in China and what it has done to push for human rights and better treatment of oppressed groups on the mainland.

So far, Apple is maintaining radio silence on the letter. ®


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