What you need to know

  • The Taiwan Flag emoji has been removed from the iOS emoji keyboard for Hong Kong and Macau.
  • Users can still access the flag by typing "Taiwan".
  • The question of Taiwan's statehood is an extremely sensitive topic in China.

A report via Hong Kong Free Press suggests that Apple has removed the Taiwan Flag from its emoji library in iOS 13.1.1, for users in Hong Kong and Macau. According to their report:

The Republic of China flag emoji has disappeared from Apple iPhone's keyboard for Hong Kong and Macau users. The change happened for users who updated their phones to the latest operating system.

Updating iPhones to iOS 13.1.1 or above caused the flag emoji to disappear from the emoji keyboard. The flag, commonly used by users to denote Taiwan, can still be displayed by typing "Taiwan" in English, and choosing the flag in prediction candidates.

The change was spotted on Twitter, with users in HK and Macau, noticing that after updating iOS to 13.1.1, the flag was no longer available for selection in iOS.

Whilst this may appear to be a non-issue to some, the political status of Taiwan in the region is an extremely sensitive topic. Taiwan has been essentially an independent nation since 1950. However, China has claimed sovereignty over the region since 1949, following the defeat of the Nationalist Government in the Chinese Civil War. As such, China does not recognise Taiwan as an independent country, and refuses to have diplomatic relations with any country that recognises Taiwan as "The Republic of China", rather than a rebellious province of the People's Republic of China.

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As noted in the Twitter post, the Taiwan flag is already locked/unavailable in China, and now it seems that this has been extended to users in HK and Macau in iOS 13.1.1. According to a post from Hiraku, any device model which has CN (China) or ZA (Hong Kong) as its region will not have the Taiwan emoji on its keyboard. Any users from another region who changes their region to CN or ZA will see the emoji dissapear.

According to HKFP:

"This means that all Hong Kong devices since iPhone XS / XR with iOS 13.1.1 or above do not show Taiwanese (ROC) flag in Emoji keyboard any more, and there's no workaround to pass this restriction," the article said.

"On the other hand, devices in other regions can add this restriction with software settings. If you want to try, just change your iOS 13.1.1+ device region to Hong Kong, and make sure that the interface language is not set to 'Traditional Chinese (Taiwan),' and then you can find that the Taiwanese flag is missing…"

The news comes in the wake of reports that a maps app designed to chart protest/police activity in Hong Kong was initially rejected by Apple, and then subsequently approved.

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