People look at iPhones on display in Apple's Beijing store on Wednesday. A day earlier, company CEO Tim Cook defended his company's decision to comply with Beijing's demand it remove VPN apps for download by Chinese citizens. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Tech giant Apple will try to have the Chinese government's Internet restrictions lessened -- but will comply with the country's laws, CEO Tim Cook said.
Virtual-private networks, or VPN, applications that can be used to circumvent China's "Great Firewall" of Internet filters, were removed from sale last week at Apple's app store in China.
The move came as Beijing strengthened Internet censorship, blocking applications including WhatsApp and images regarded as politically sensitive. Apple's decision to remove availability of VPN apps was criticized as supportive of the Chinese government's censorship drive.
Amazon.com warned Chinese customers of its cloud computing services to stop using tools that circumvent China's new policy.
"We're hopeful that over time the restrictions we're seeing are lessened, because innovation really requires freedom to collaborate and communicate. We believe in engaging with governments even when we disagree," Cook said in a telephone earnings call on Tuesday.
The Apple chief also challenged comparisons between his company's compliance with Beijing and its refusal last year to help authorities unlock a cellphone used by the main culprit in the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif.
"In the case of the U.S., the law in the U.S. supported us. It was very clear. In the case of China, the law is very clear there," Cook said. "We have to abide by them in both cases. That doesn't mean that we don't state our point of view in the appropriate way."
China is Apple's largest market outside the United States.