Google takes down app that removes Chinese software

Remove China AppsImage copyright OneTouch Apps
Image caption The app scans a phone for Chinese apps and lists them

Google has taken down an Android service that helped people delete other apps made in China.

Remove China Apps had been downloaded more than a million times in the first 10 days after its launch.

It had proved particularly popular in India, where tensions with China are high over a disputed border in the Himalayas.

Google said it violated its app store policies but gave no further details.

The software was developed by the Indian firm One Touch AppLabs.

On its website it wrote: “Dear friends, Google has removed Remove China Apps from [the] Google Play store.

“Thank you for all your support in past two weeks.

“You are awesome.”

The app highlighted popular social-media site TikTok, owned by Beijing-based Bytedance

But it also flagged up video-conferencing app Zoom, based in California but founded by an entrepreneur born in China.

The Remove China Apps service highlights TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based Bytedance.

But it also flags up Zoom, which is based in California but was founded by an entrepreneur who was born in China.

However, it was not able to detect apps pre-installed on Chinese-made smartphones.

Among the other apps it highlighted were:

  • ShareIt, which allows people to transfer files including photos, video and music
  • CamScanner, which allows users to use their phones to scan images and turn them into PDF documents
  • UC browser, a Chinese web browser owned by Alibaba

Fans helped it gain publicity via social media posts, in which they suggest alternative apps to the Chinese ones.

But critics have said the service is stoking anti-China sentiment, which was already on the rise after the emergence of Covid-19 in the city of Wuhan.

Boycott calls

Developers on Beluga Whale, an online community for China’s app makers, had called on others to report the app to Google, calling it a “form of market disruption”.

One told the news site Techcrunch: “I think what happens in India will happen in other countries in the future, so this is a long-term impact that should factor into China developers’ calculation.”

Tensions have risen between India and China after Chinese troops moved into what had been regarded by India as its territory in the disputed Kashmir region.

Indian engineer Sonam Wangchuk posted a video on YouTube suggesting that Indians should boycott everything Chinese – which has had two million views to date.

Since then hashtags #boycottChina, #boycottmadeinChina and #boycottChineseapps have trended on social media.

Bollywood actor Milind Soman, who has more than 99,000 Twitter followers, took to the platform to say he had uninstalled TikTok.

It marks a further setback for the video-clip app, which recently suffered a backlash in India over a spoof acid attack clip that led to users posting millions of one star reviews via Google’s Play store.

Neither Google nor TikTok responded to requests for comment.

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