The tech giant claims it was ordered by Beijing to pull WhatsApp, Threads, Telegram, and Signal from the local AppStore © Getty Images / Rafael Henrique; SOPA Images; LightRocket

Apple has pulled several popular messaging apps from its storefront in China at the request of the government in Beijing over alleged national security concerns, the US-tech giant announced on Friday.

Meta’s WhatsApp and Threads apps, as well as messaging services Telegram and Signal, are no longer available for download on the AppStore in China, Bloomberg reported. The Wall Street Journal has claimed that Korean Line has also been made inaccessible to Chinese users.

Before their removal, none of the apps were widely used in China, where Tencent’s WeChat is the overwhelmingly dominant service.

In a statement to Reuters on Friday, Apple said China’s Cyberspace Administration had requested the removal of instant messengers from the App Store for reasons of national security, but stressed that the apps remain available on all other storefronts. The US-based tech giant noted that it is obliged to comply with the laws of the countries in which it operates, even if it does not agree with them.

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At the same time, other Meta apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger are still available for download on the Chinese AppStore. However, as was the case with the removed messaging apps, it is still difficult to access these platforms without special proxy tools such as a virtual private network (VPN) to circumvent Beijing’s Great Firewall.

The four removed apps remain available in China’s two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, Reuters noted.

While the specific reasons for the request to remove the apps remain unknown, the step may be tied to a law passed in China last year which requires all apps operating in the country to register with the local regulatory body.

In August, Chinese authorities called on foreign developers to adhere to this rule by the end of March 2024 or be forced to remove their apps from the marketplace. (RT)