WhatsApp, Threads, more banished from Apple App Store in China

Still available in Hong Kong and Macau, for now

Apple has removed four apps from its China-regional app store, including Meta's WhatsApp and Threads, after it was ordered to do so by Beijing for security reasons.

The Chinese government also ordered the removal of Telegram and Signal, making it clear that the directive was targeted at communications apps in particular. With the exception of Threads, all apps boast strong encryption technologies, which may have irritated the Middle Kingdom as encryption makes it much harder for it to keep an eye on its citizens.

It's conspicuous that the ban comes soon after the China-based social media app TikTok received heavy scrutiny in the US and the EU. Congress is on the path to banning TikTok entirely, while the EU is probing the new TikTok Lite app launched earlier this month. It's possible that banning Western apps is a form of retaliation.

However, the exact timing could be a coincidence and the root cause related to a law China introduced in August, which mandated developers to register with the government, according to Reuters. The deadline to register was the end of March, and on April 1 the law went into effect.

China isn't making a play to crack down on all foreign messaging apps, at least not yet. Meta's other apps including Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram (which Threads is intertwined with) are still available, as are X and YouTube, says Reuters.

Apple wasn't particularly happy with the order. "We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree," the company said in a statement.

The removal hasn't gone into effect everywhere in China as the four apps are still available in Hong Kong and Macau, which aren't entirely integrated into China proper due to their special "one country, two systems" status.

Given that Hong Kong tightened its control on social media last month and discussed banning some platforms, it's possible that Apple will have to remove the very same apps in the city eventually. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like