Apple and Tim Cook are again under fire for their relationship with the Chinese government. Following criticism from Senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida today slammed Tim Cook for his appearance at the state-run World Internet Conference…

Ecobee HomeKit Thermostat

Rubio’s comments were made at a hearing entitled “The Long Arm of China: Exporting Authoritarianism with Chinese Characteristics.” Speaking during the hearing, Rubio cited Apple as a prime example of a United States company vying for “desperate access to the Chinese marketplace.”

Rubio pointed to Cook’s appearance at the World Internet Conference last week as an example of this, noting of the irony between Apple’s vision in the United States and Cook’s statement that Apple shares China’s vision for an open internet:

And so again this is where 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.

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. He delivered the keynote speech on the opening day of that gathering.

Rubio’s comments towards Cook and Apple, however, didn’t stop there. He went on to acknowledge Apple’s response to similar criticism from Leahy and Cruz, but then again pointed out the irony in Cook’s subsequent appearance at the internet conference in China.

Rubio quipped that Apple is “so desperate to have access to the Chinese marketplace” that it is willing to forgo its values in the United States “because there’s a lot of money to be made” in China. He further pointed to Apple’s continued attempts to “lecture us about free speech and human rights and domestic problems.”

So again, here’s an example of a company, in my view, so desperate to have access to the Chinese market place 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.

And a good example for the United States and for our people, how some of these individuals like to come here and lecture us about free speech and human rights and domestic problems, then go abroad and are fully cooperative on some grotesque violation of human rights because there’s a lot of money to be made, and they don’t want to offend their host country.

Of course, there’s irony in Rubio’s comments and the current battle around net neutrality, but it’s also important to note that Cook wasn’t the only tech executive in attendance at the World Internet Conference in China. Sundar Pichai of Google was also there, as were executives from Cisco, Facebook, and Microsoft.

Watch a clip of Rubio’s comments below:

About the Author