Apple on Thursday removed from its App Store a Hong Kong location map app that tracks protests activities following a backlash from China, in an about-face after it first gave approval to the app last week.

The US-based company said that the HKmap.live app, which crowdsources locations of police and anti-government protesters in the city, violated its rules as it was used to target and ambush police, victimize residents and threaten public safety.

Hong Kong police clearing the area on October 7 following a standoff with protesters gathered outside the Mongkok police station in Hong Kong. (Picture: AFP)

“We have learned that an app, HKmap.live, has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong,” Apple said in a statement.

“This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store.”

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.

The developer of the HKmap.live, who declined to reveal their identity over personal safety concerns, confirmed on Twitter and its official channel in Telegram, a popular messaging app used by protesters, that the app had been removed by Apple.

Apple first approved the HKmap.live app on October 4, according to the developer, and the app immediately shot to the top of the charts for the travel category in the iOS App Store in Hong Kong.

HKmap.live attracted both positive and negative reviews, with one user calling it “life-saving technology” while another said the it supported lawbreaking and put “citizens in danger.”

A screenshot of the HKmap.live app.

“By allowing its platform to clear the way for an app that incites illegal behavior, [does Apple] not worry about damaging its reputation and hurting the feelings of consumers?” the People’s Daily commentary said.

Prior to the initial approval, Apple said it had turned down the developer’s application to list HKmap.live on its App Store because it contained “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 October 2 rejection notice in a tweet last week.

The developer previously told the Post that there is “no evidence that HKmap.live is illegal” and stated that they had never received any legal complaints.

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.