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Apple CEO hopes Chinese VPN restrictions will be eased over time

Asked about the recent removal of VPN apps from the Chinese App Store, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company had no choice under local laws, but expressed hope the crackdown won't be permanent.

"We're hopeful that over time the restrictions we are seeing (will be) loosened," Cook said on a conference call with analysts. "Innovation really requires freedom to communicate and collaborate."

Cook rebuffed the parallel that some have drawn to last year, when Apple refused an FBI request to turn over customer information. Cook said in that case US law was on Apple's side, whereas in the recent VPN case China's laws require companies that want to offer VPN apps to get a license from the government.

"Like we do in other countries we follow the law wherever we do business," Cook said, adding that the company still voices its opinions in the appropriate way.

The rub: This is a case where Apple's tight grasp on the App Store puts it in a position to be able to remove any app it is ordered to, unlike Android, where apps can be downloaded from third-party app stores or directly "sideloaded" onto the device.