SFT recently sent an appeal letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, urging him to re-allow VPNs so that Tibetans and other activists have a thin veil of protection when using the internet. Here is the full text of our letter:
August 24, 2017
Chief Executive Officer
Dear Tim Cook,
I write to you today on behalf of Students for a Free Tibet, a student-led network of young activists in more than 35 countries around the world in schools and universities, working in solidarity with Tibetans in Tibet in their struggle for freedom and independence. I express my deep shock and disappointment at your betrayal of internet freedom and human rights.
Last month, Apple made an announcement that you were removing Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps from your App Store in China. This is a fundamental violation of the principles of internet freedom and access to information, a decision that affects millions of people in Tibet, East Turkestan and China.
You know very well, Mr. Cook, that VPNs help internet surfers by providing them with a layer of anonymity, especially when browsing politically sensitive content online. By removing the VPNs from the China App Store, you have made it easier for China to jail people for seeking information! With this decision, Apple has turned its back on freedom and human rights to appease the dictatorship in China. And your kowtowing to Beijing literally puts scores of Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Chinese at risk of imprisonment.
The internet has always been a risky place for my fellow Tibetans in Tibet. Just five months ago, a Tibetan youth named Gedhun was left in critical condition after being arrested and severely beaten by Chinese authorities in Sershul, in eastern Tibet. He had been accused of posting pictures of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan national flag online. But now, you have just made the internet even more dangerous.
Mr Cook, you should know that by removing VPNs from the App Store in China, you are making it easier for the Chinese government to find, arrest and punish people like Gedhun.
I urge you to allow VPNs back in the App Store and stop facilitating CCP’s repression. If you cannot help make the internet more free, you certainly should not make it less free and more dangerous. We expect to receive a response on this urgent matter by next week, August the 31st on this matter and our concerns.