Apple iPhone users in Macau and Taiwan discovered this week that they no longer had access to an emoji bearing the image of the Taiwanese flag, considered a controversial symbol on mainland China.
Qz.com reported Tuesday that the emoji had vanished from devices operating in two of China’s special administrative regions, a sign of China’s growing animus towards the Taiwanese government which considers Taiwan to be an independent nation separate from China.
No mention of the removal was found in Apple’s most recent iPhone patch notes, and the company did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill.
An analysis of the change performed by one Twitter user revealed that the change was made through Apple’s keyboard, and was region-locked, allowing those wishing to use the emoji to digitally switch their regions and access the symbol.
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
Hong Kong has been the center of months of protests led by pro-democracy demonstrators.
Controversy surrounding police treatment of protesters has led to a back and forth between the nation and the National Basketball Association after the Houston Rockets general manager expressed support for the Hong Kong protesters.
The NBA, which has billions of dollars of business ties with China, promptly replied saying that the GM did not speak for the entire league.
The NBA’s response was hammered by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Washington, who accused the basketball league of caring more about Chinese investments than human rights.