Apple has allowed a Hong Kong location map that tracks protest activities to go on its App Store, reversing an earlier decision to reject the submission.

HKmap.live, an app that crowdsources the location of police and anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, received approval from Apple on October 4 and was made available for download on October 5, according to the developer, who declined to give his or her name when contacted via Twitter, citing concerns of arrest by the government.

Apple initially turned down the application to list HKmap.live on its App Store because it “allowed users to evade law enforcement,” according to the app’s developer. (Picture: EPA-EFE)

A check showed HKmap.live is the most downloaded app under the travel category in the iOS App Store for Hong Kong. The app has attracted both positive and negative reviews, with one user calling it “life saving technology” while another said the app supported lawbreaking and put “citizens in danger.”

Hong Kong has seen months of street demonstrations and increasing violence triggered by the government’s now-abandoned extradition bill. Clashes between riot police and protesters have led to accusations of police brutality, with radicals looting, trashing and burning shops, bank outlets and MTR stations.

Screenshot of HKmap.live, an app that crowd-sources the location of police and protestors in the on-going protests in Hong Kong. (Picture: Handout)

Apple initially turned down the developer’s application to list HKmap.live on its App Store because it “contains content – or facilitates, enables and encourages an activity – that is not legal” and “allowed users to evade law enforcement,” according to the developer, who cited Apple’s rejection notice in a tweet last week. The developer said in a subsequent tweet that the app was used for information and “does not encourage illegal activity.”

The developed declined to comment further on Apple’s initial decision when reached. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Greater China region – covering mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan – is one of Apple’s major markets. The Cupertino, California-based company derived US$9.61 billion in sales from the region in the April-to-June period, down 4% from a year earlier.

In a sign of how polarized the issue of Hong Kong’s protests has become, mainland Chinese internet users have taken to social media to voice their frustration with Apple approving the HKmap.live app. Among the trending topics over the weekend on the Weibo social media platform was one called “Apple approves app helping Hong Kong rioters,” which was viewed more than 210 million times and generated 44,000 comments.