Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) rebuked Apple CEO Tim Cook Wednesday for his willingness to align himself with the Chinese Communist Party on tech issues.
Cook gave a keynote address earlier this month at China's World Internet Conference and praised the Chinese "vision" for the internet, which Rubio called "absurd." Speaking at a Senate hearing entitled "The Long Arm of China: Exporting Authoritarianism With Chinese Characteristics," Rubio decried China’s approach to internet freedom as well as Cook’s behavior.
"You come into this absurd situation where the World Internet Conference is held in China, meant to promote China’s vision of cyber sovereignty, which all of you have talked about—basically the idea that governments all over the world should have the right to control what appears on the internet in their countries," Rubio said.
"The most confusing part of it all is that Apple CEO Tim Cook stood up at that conference and he celebrated China’s vision of an open internet," Rubio added.
China has curtailed its citizens’ freedom to use applications from Skype to virtual private networks, and Apple has cooperated with their demands. As part of President Xi Jinping’s new initiatives, China has gone much further, banning academic sources about Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square Massacre, among many other topics.
Rubio discussed these restrictive internet measures and pointed to Apple’s hypocrisy on matters of human rights.
"Here’s an example of a company, in my view, so desperate to have access to the Chinese marketplace that they are willing to follow the laws of that country even if those laws run counter to what those companies’ own standards are supposed to be," Rubio said.
Rubio added that tech companies should not "lecture us about free speech and human rights and domestic problems" while cooperating with "grotesque violation of human rights because there’s a lot of money to be made."
Cook has publicly opposed bills protecting religious freedom in the United States, writing that they are efforts to "enshrine discrimination in state law."
In September, Apple executive Lisa Jackson blasted President Donald Trump for undermining the "transparency" of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Apple employees gave 92 percent of their political contributions to Democrats.