Google takes down software to remove Chinese apps

A popular Indian mobile application that helped users detect and delete Chinese software from their smartphones has been removed by Google from its Play Store, its maker said Wednesday.

“Remove China Apps” was downloaded more than five million times in the past two weeks as anti-Chinese sentiment grew because of the coronavirus and tensions along the two countries’ border.

Its popularity, which made it the top trending app on Play Store in India, also followed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call last month for a “self-reliant India”.

The previously unknown company behind the app, OneTouch AppLabs, had said that its aim was to “develop world class products in India. #SelfReliant”.

Once downloaded, the app identified the country of origin of software on a user’s Android smartphone, highlighted those originating in China and suggested how to remove them.

The firm was not available for comment on Wednesday but a message on its website said that “Google has removed ‘Remove China Apps’ from Google Play store”.

A Google spokesperson said that the removal was “due to policy violations,” Bloomberg News reported.

Mitron, an alternative to the hugely popular Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok that was downloaded more than 5 million times, also disappeared from the Google Play Store this week.

Mitron had also benefited from the growing anti-China sentiment in India. Its removal was likely due to security issues after cyber experts highlighted risks.

Tensions have flared in recent weeks between India and China over their 3 500-kilometre frontier which has never been properly demarcated. Both sides are said to have moved in hundreds of extra troops. Last month several soldiers were hurt during fistfights and stone-throwing.

India and China fought a brief border war in 1962. China still claims some 90 000 square kilometres of territory under New Delhi’s control.

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