Apple published an unprecedented policy on human rights and commitment to freedom of information and expression, in response to shareholders and social movements demanding a more critical stance on censorship in China.
The four-page document, published on September 4, states that "with humility, optimism, and a constant faith in people, we are committed to respecting the human rights of all those whose lives we touch.
"We believe in the fundamental importance of an open society in which information flows freely, and we are convinced that the best way to continue promoting openness is to remain committed, even when we disagree with a country's laws," the document adds.
According to Apple, its policy is based on the United Nations International Bill of Human Rights and the International Labor Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
At the February 2020 annual meeting, a request from a group of shareholders-receiving 40 percent support-asked the company to commit to "respect for freedom of expression as a human right.
Apple's board of directors approved the human rights policy and published it by September 5, allowing shareholders to make their voices heard at the next investor meeting.
The request came as part of the concerns of civil society organizations, which accused Apple of tolerating cyber-surveillance and censorship by the Chinese government.
In its policy, Apple admitted that they are "obliged to comply with local laws and sometimes there are complex issues on which we can disagree with governments and other stakeholders on the right track.
According to civil society organizations, Apple has removed thousands of applications, including virtual private networks and recently PopVote, a voting platform used by pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong to hold unofficial primary elections.