Chinese activists go on hunger strike at Apple headquarters

Volunteers check strikers. Photo: Vivian Sheh via SF Examiner


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A hunger strike continues at Apple's Cupertino headquarters to protest labor exploitation, recent AirDrop restrictions, App Store censorship, and more.

Since the beginning of December, Chinese international students and activists have held solidarity pickets in Stanford, Berkeley and San Jose. Two hunger strikers also camped at Apple Park, the company's headquarters.

Han Wang, a Chinese student at the University of Southern California, went on a hunger strike on Monday. According to the San Francisco Examiner, he only took water and will continue to strike as long as his health allows.

Wang urges Apple to stop labor exploitation at Foxconn's iPhone factory, lift iPhone AirDrop temporary restrictions, end censorship of the Chinese App Store, and take a public stand against China's persecution of Uyghurs.

Han Wang from Apple. Source: @FreeforHKpeople on Twitter

VKontakte, another hunger striker, told Axios that their demonstration was inspired by the “white paper revolution” – a series of protests in China where people hold up blank sheets of paper to protest censorship, COVID lockdowns and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Privacy and freedom of speech are the foundation of a democratic society,” he said. “The world, including American consumers, is unhappy that Apple has bowed to the [Chinese Communist Party].”

Goals of the protest

Alleged labor exploitation at Foxconn is one of the topics of the protest. In November, hundreds of workers rioted at an Apple iPhone supplier's factory in Zhengzhou.

They protested food and conditions that were part of China's stringent COVID-19 restrictions. After the riot, Foxconn apologized and said the payment issues were a “technical error”.

Protesters demand that Apple stop censoring. Source: @moreless on Twitter

Foxconn also said it has been in contact with affected employees and has done its best “to proactively address employee concerns and reasonable requests.”

Apple Park activists are also protesting Apple's recent changes to AirDrop. Originally released in China and rolled out to iPhone users worldwide in the upcoming release of iOS 15.2, it sets a time limit for the “Everyone” setting.

The “Everyone” setting, the focus of the 10-minute time limit, means that anyone with an Apple device can get something via AirDrop. Prior to the change, the “all” setting was persistent until the user toggled it.

Critics have claimed this was done to thwart protesters who could distribute anti-government material via AirDrop. While Apple made the change prior to the start of the protests in China, it did not announce it or comment publicly until it stated that it was implementing the change for all users.

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