Apple appears to have removed the Taiwan flag from the emoji keyboard of users that have their iOS region set to Hong Kong or Macau, according to a number of local websites, including Hiraku. The change, implemented via a software update, comes not long after the company released its iOS 13 operating system, and highlights the complicated relationship that Apple -- and indeed many American companies -- have with China.
Apple's region lock of ROC Taiwan flag 🇹🇼 extended beyond CN devices to HK and Macau's in the iOS/iPadOS 13.1.1 rollout. Interestingly, the new lock only affects the keyboard, and has no problem displaying and is easy to bypass by switching region. https://t.co/RVRKNQyc1l pic.twitter.com/8eQXambiAQ— 王博源 Wang Boyuan (@thisboyuan) October 3, 2019
This isn't the first time Apple has caused controversy amid the pro-democracy protests, nor has it been the only US company to do so. Earlier this week the tech giant was criticized by China's state newspaper for allowing an app on its App Store that tracks the movement of police around Hong Kong, while the NBA and Activision Blizzard have also run afoul of China's political landscape.
It is still possible to use the Taiwan flag emoji, however. Apparently it still displays in apps and on websites, and you can bring it up by typing the word "Taiwan" or by copying and pasting it. If somebody from outside the Hong Kong or Macau regions sends the emoji to users within those areas it will still appear, although that's not possible on iPhones in mainland China.