Apple blocks FreeWeibo app on Beijing's demands

Apple Inc. has once again bowed to the demands of China, this time by blocking an anti-censorship application from its Chinese app store on Beijing's demands, software developers said on Friday.

Named "FreeWeibo," the app was launched online in October to secure access to "controversial" postings that had been censored or deleted on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website that's seen as an equivalent to Twitter.

As of Nov.28, FreeWeibo has become unavailable. Devices running on other overseas app store functionality, however, still have access, according to industry watchers.

"Apple makes it impossible for apps concerned with issues such as free speech or human to find a home in the Chinese app store," said Radio Netherlands Worldwide in a statement, criticising both Apple and the Chinese government. RNW had been involved in the development of FreeWeibo.

"Apple's image of being a hip and trendy company is eroding - the brand will hold little cachet for the consumer because of actions like these and in the long run that means less Apple devices will be sold," said another developer going by the pseudonym Charlie Smith, in an interview with AFP.

China has made continuous demands on Western companies including Apple and Google to uphold its policy for maintaining a "Great Firewall" on the online activity of the Chinese public in order to keep a firm hold on them.

Google, after falling out with China, moved its server to Hong Kong and is recently experiencing low market shares in the Chinese search engine market.

By Kim Ji-hyun and news reports (