An Apple store in Hong Kong reportedly refused to engrave an anti-China, pro-democracy logo on the Apple pencil of one of its customers, the Asian website Coconuts reported Thursday.
The customer, identified as Mr. Chan, told the local newspaper Apple Daily that he received a call from an Apple employee on Wednesday saying that the “higher-ups didn’t approve” his request for an inscription on his Apple Pencil with the phrase “Liberate HKERS.”
When Chan tried to find out why they had rejected his request, he was simply told it had been denied by those higher up in the company. Describing himself as a “loyal Apple fan,” Chan argued that the inscription was a neutral political phrase and the decision represented a violation of Hong Konger’s right to freedom of expression.
“They didn’t even send me an email because they didn’t want it written down in black and white,” he told the outlet.
The proposed inscription is a reference to the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement that has driven millions of people to take to the streets to oppose China’s increasing control and interference over the supposedly autonomous region, which recently culminated in the passing of a “national security law” that effectively criminalizes all criticism and political opposition to Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Apple has enjoyed a friendly relationship with the CCP for years, benefitting from cheap labor in the country’s notoriously harsh factories. Some reports have documented the presence of suicide nets at factories to prevent employees from killing themselves. In July, human rights groups accused the Silicon Valley-based company of using slave labor by Uyghur Muslims, millions of whom are currently being kept in concentration camps in a process of religious and ethnic cleansing.
It is not the first time even in Hong Kong that Apple has stifled dissent against China. In August, managers reportedly prohibited employees from wearing lanyards with Memojis (a type of customizable emoji character) that signaled their support for the pro-democracy movement.