Librem 5 and Hong Kong Protests

As many of you have heard, Apple has recently banned the app HKmap which has been used heavily by the Hong Kong protesters. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but this is a perfect example of why we’ve given way too much power to a few companies.

This raises a few questions in my mind that, hopefully, some of you will have answers for.

I have some understanding of how software repositories work for PureOS, but how easy would it be to add sources and, more importantly, how could I best explain the concept and advantages to the average smart phone user?

Also, even though we are pushing the limits of possible with the current Librem 5, how possible would it be in a couple phone generations to source parts that DON’T rely on freedom hating places like China as part of the equation? I don’t doubt for a second that this topic won’t be read by the above government. What happens if they want to choke the part supply chain sometime in the future?

And finally, do you think the Librem 5 price tag would still seem too high to one of the above protesters who just realized that “their” phone really didn’t belong to them?


As to the software part of the question, there are actually two problems:

  • banning some app from the repository or the repository itself (either by pressuring the repository owner or by forcing local ISPs to ban repo’s and mirrors’ IP addresses) - that’s the easy thing to overcome. You just find another repository, or take a plain DEB from somewhere, or even build it from sources (all of this may be scripted and handed off to non-tech-savvy users, simplifying everything to something like “please double tap on this file”). That’s FLOSS, and it is virtually impossible to stop every user accessing every instance of the package or the source tarball (offline distribution to the rescue, at the end of the day);

  • banning the web-servers which are required for app to work properly after the installation - this is much harder to overcome. Tunnels have no meaning if your country is behind “great firewall” (which is the case for China and is in process of active regulatory and technical development in Russia. Probably more countries try to do the same thing, don’t know). So, if you cannot use tunnels to access the “original” servers, you have to host the server on your own. Even if you have the source code of the server and all the data the app could need (e.g. map tiles, graphs of roads, etc.), you still need substantial computing power to host the server side and make it serve all the clients (especially if the app is not designed to have the decentralized architecture), so if the app depends on the server side heavily, I feel that it is pretty easy to break the app even without banning it from the repositories.


I don’t think that’s really the issue here. Governments want to do bad things now. It’s certainly something that could happen and it could happen at either end. A company may protect itself by having sufficiently generic parts that there are alternative suppliers. However so much comes from China these days.

Doing this would be payback. It would not achieve any immediate goals for the Chinese government.

Bear in mind that the government can simply switch the phone network off, or switch the internet off, or both.

To be honest, I don’t know what “HKmap” does. Can you tell us?


I expect it would be as easy as using synaptic package manager to add the repos and then browse them for what you want :slight_smile: Also, I think purism has something even easier involving flatpack planned (don’t really know much about that) Yet, as others have mentioned here, governments can shut down networks. That’s where ad - hoc networks and hybrid darknet ad-hoc networks like GNUnet come in.

Everyone has their own way, but this is my usual go to ( I generally don’t try to “sell” rather than point out people deserve more):
First illustrate that how we compute is how we communicate (give examples that some people use a keyboard or keypad more than their own voices, etc. etc.) Then ask them to recall the Monty Python skit ministry of silly walks (if they don’t remember or are younger, show them). Ask them if they would have a problem using a silly walk if they had no other choice (there really was a ministry and how they walked was legislated by it) ? Finally, point out that their communication is currently controlled by the software they’re using to do it. Let them direct the conversation from there so as to make it meaningful to them.


Might be Apple had a reason to suspect that PRC had a way to spy on app, making app use dangerous for the protesters.


…or the organisations/persons who have the ability to not to cooperate with PRC.

That’s a very upbeat assessment. In a way I would like to think that you are correct but …

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… but most likely PRC said “do as we want or you won’t sell anything anymore in our jurisdiction”

And since Apple has the way to remotely do anything to Iphones, they are vulnerable to such threats.


Did not Black Berry go down because it was rumored they caved to pressure from a middle east government to …what was it.?

Anyway. When Apple refused to let US government hack into the phone of a multiple murder suspect. Apple surely knew two things. Someone else could get the US government into the phone. The US government was unlikely to arrest, abuse, possibly shoot Apple employees, geeks in general who might be able to get into Iphone (supplied with the right motivation)

Not to mention the potential future sales of Iphones inside China.

If Puri is going to survive, they will have to be willing to walk away from potential bigger sales, if Puri-Librem cooperates. Which means they need the financial help of those who want Privacy, and some limited security.

I can not help at all. I am on Social Security.

BTW: Blackberry still exists.

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nowadays it’s more like Gooberry super-reinforced-augmented-strength-security marketing to enterprises and large-shipping-companies.

it is more the Chinese government who said to Apple how you help us by banning this app or you could say goodbye to your sweatshop in China

if you think it’s hilarous, you should read about the battle between the Chinese goverment and Wikipedia

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Seems that Apple may have reversed its decision.

Either way it highlights a fundamental problem with the iPhone … Apple gets to decide what software you run on a device that you theoretically own. Librem 5 can’t come soon enough.


I personaly don’t wait for a LibreM Phone and/or another FairPhone because I liberate my Nexus 5 (the great father of FairPhone 1) 6 years ago and still use it. This time I used E a fork from LineageOS and I’m quite impress about how far they push the idea of replacing Google.

librem phone is not about what you do know (os/userspace) rather about what you don’t (kernel, drivers, firmware, hardware)

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yes definately ! but … it’s still not fully open-hardware. it’s more like a journey to be had there …

it’s difficult to say you OWN it since it’s only partially true. there are forces at play that don’t want such a thing to happen. i believe “they” don’t trust us with that much power in our pocket …

It’s not that “they” don’t trust us. It’s that “they” know we wouldn’t put up with the crap they have planned for us if we had a choice.

Or “they” don’t want us to have much power because power means control. “They” want control because control means dollars for them.

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And reversed again!

So: rejected then approved then rejected.

Must be an opportunity there. Sell thousands of Librem 5 phones in HK and port - all by yesterday of course :smile:

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