FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 4 September 2020 CONTACTS: Pema Doma, Students for a Free TIbet | pemadoma@
Apple Issues Landmark New Human Rights Policy Following Pressure From Activists
For the first time, Apple has issued a new human rights policy  that includes the company’s commitment to freedom of information and expression as human rights. The policy comes after Tibet, Uyghur, Hong Konger, Chinese democracy, and ethical consumer activist groups campaigned  about the company’s role in enabling cyber-surveillance and censorship . The landmark decision to approve the policy was taken by Apple’s Board of Directors and published ahead of the deadline to submit shareholder motions for next year’s shareholder meeting.
In February 2020, at Apple’s last shareholder meeting, over 40% of the company’s investors voted to support a resolution  put forward by ethical consumer group SumOfUs . The resolution proposed that Apple report annually on its policies on freedom of expression and access to information, as well as be more transparent in how it responds to requests from governments such as China to restrict certain apps.
Apple has deleted thousands of apps including virtual private networks and recently PopVote , a voting platform used by pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong to hold unofficial primary elections. By contrast, the app was quickly accepted by the Google Play store.
The new human rights policy meets the first part of the resolution by publicly committing to respect freedom of information and expression as human rights, and is welcomed by activists. At the same time, the policy does not go far enough in outlining the implementation of the company’s commitment. Later this month SumOfUs, with the support of Tibet Groups, will be filing a new proposal for the 2021 shareholder meeting, which would ensure Apple further develops processes and transparency around implementation and oversight of the company’s commitment to freedom of expression and access to information.
Pema Doma, Campaigns Director at Students for a Free Tibet, said: “As a Tibetan-American, I am eager to continue engaging Apple to bring voices from impacted communities into the company’s decisions surrounding human rights. By bringing Tibetan, Uyghur, Hong Konger, Chinese, and other frontline iOS users to the table, Apple is setting a crucial example that can have a positive impact on global norms around freedom of expression for generations to come. This is just the first step, so I hope to see Apple continue in this direction.”
Lobsang Gyatso Sither, Director of Digital Security at Tibet Action Institute, said: “Apple implementing a Human Rights Policy is an important milestone in the right direction. Apple continues to operate in numerous countries where human rights violations occur on a daily basis and how this policy will be put into practice is the crucial part of this process. As an organization working for the digital security of Tibetans inside Tibet, we will continue to monitor this policy and Apple’s continued practices in Tibet and its impact on Tibetans on the ground.” Mandie McKeown at International Tibet Network said: “This is a breakthrough moment – Tibet groups have worked tirelessly with our activist partners on this campaign and we are buoyed that Apple have taken this first step towards upholding the rights of Tibetans in Tibet. But this is just a first step and Apple now has to implement this policy in full and we will be watching closely to ensure that it does just that.”
Zumretay Arkin of World Uyghur Congress, said: “The new human rights policy adopted by Apple is a great step towards change, and accountability. As a Uyghur-Canadian, I am glad to see that the world’s largest company has decided to stand up for human rights. It is vital however that Apple continues to engage and listen to the affected communities, and Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers will in a joint effort make sure that Apple keeps its promise. We ask Apple to stand up to Beijing, rather than complying with its censorship policies. We ask Apple to take into account its consumers’ voices.”
Sondhya Gupta, Campaigns Manager at SumOfUs, said: “Apple’s adoption of a human rights policy is a breakthrough moment and we commend Apple for taking this first step. However, we still have questions about how the policy will be implemented and what oversight there will be. Apple has a huge influence on people’s freedom of expression globally, and ultimately, the company’s commitment to human rights will be measured by the difference it makes to the lives of millions of Apple customers living under cyber-surveillance in Hong Kong, Tibet, East Turkestan, China, and elsewhere. We will continue to work alongside shareholders and human rights defenders in dialogue with Apple to ensure the company lives up to this responsibility.”
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