After a high-profile apology in the face of widespread media criticism, Apple is being accused of kowtowing to the Chinese government after it barred local access to an app that includes content that authorities deemed to be ‘illegal’ in the country.

The Financial Times reports [paywalled] that bookstore app ‘jingdian shucheng’ (app link) has been removed from the Chinese App Store after developer Hao Peiqiang was notified that his app “includes content that is illegal in China”.

Apple did not qualify the content in question, but Hao suspects that the inclusion of three books by Wang Lixiong, a writer who has had work banned in the country, is likely the reason. The app — which only features a total of 10 books — continues to be available outside of China.

Hao provides a screenshot of the notification on his blog:

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The app has been available in China for the last two months and Wang told the FT that he hadn’t contacted Apple to claim copyright over his work, which suggests that the removal has been entirely driven by Apple. Coupled with the fact that the company recently issued a high-profile apology in Chinese consumers — the wake of a spate of attacks from the country’s media — many are suggesting that Apple has adopted a more cooperative working relationship with Chinese authorities, who rule the domestic Web space with a censorship-heavy fist.

Hao himself sidestepped the suggestion that Tim Cook’s apology, and Apple decision to introduce new measures to provide improved product care for its customers in China, were related to the banning of the app.

“Friends of mine tell me that Apple has had a censorship policy in place for at least two years so I’m not sure if my app’s removal has anything to do with Apple’s recent trouble,” he told the FT.

Wang was, however, more direct, and told the newspaper that the decision “must be because of political reasons”.

Nonetheless, with the two scenarios occurring so close together, many will make the connection that Apple is appeasing the government by following its orders.

We reached out to Apple for comment.

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Headline image via Shutterstock, image of email via Hao Peiqiang

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