Google has removed the popular app WhatsGap from the Play Store, claiming it violated its app store policy but it appears that the search giant has bowed down to growing pressure from China. The app in question is a pro-Hong Kong democracy app that is used to identify retailers that share similar political views and now netizens are calling for a Google boycott.
What is WhatsGap?
WhatsGap is essentially a mapping app used by netizens to locate retail businesses like restaurants, cafes and shops that are in favour of Hong Kong's democracy in the region.
The app also reveals which businesses have been boycotted over the treatment of their staff due to their pro-Hong Kong political stand. Moreover, the app also allows retail outlets to share more information about their businesses, including their political views.
Removed from Google Play Store
Google told ZDNet that WhatsGap was removed from the Play Store as the app contained "sensitive" content. "We have a long-standing policy prohibiting apps that lack reasonable sensitivity towards or capitalise on serious ongoing conflicts or tragedies," a Google spokesperson told the ZDNet.
"After careful review, we found this app to be violating that particular policy and suspended it, as we have done with similar attempts to profit from other high-profile events such as earthquakes, crises, suicides and conflicts."
Unlike Apple, which removed HKmap.live - a web mapping service which crowdsources and tracks the location of protesters and police in Hong Kong, from its app store in October, WhatsGap can be reinstalled on Android devices by bypassing the Play Store, as explained by pro-democracy activist Twitter account @Fight4HongKong via a graphic on the micro-blogging platform.
Google gives in to China pressure
Google now joins Apple, Blizzard, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) -- all of which have bowed down to growing pressure from China. Blizzard, which is part-owned by Chinese giant Tencent, sparked controversy after it took back its prize money and suspended Hearthstone player Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai for expressing his support for Hong Kong.
The NBA meanwhile, previously found itself in hot water with China after the general manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, tweeted his support for the Hong Kong protests. In retaliation, the league's preseason games were not shown in the Middle Kingdom.
Several netizens have called for the boycott of Google over its decision to remove the app from the Play Store and took to social media to express their anger. "This is a good chance for HK ppl know who and what are worth to support in this movement. Apparently Google and Apple are not on list. Basically use, but don't purchase any additional," users wrote on Twitter.
Another user shared a caricature illustrating major companies and countries kissing the shoes of Chinese president Xi Jinping and linking him to Hitler with a swastika on his suit, holding a bag of money soaked in blood as the others perform the Nazi salute.