China says it hasn’t banned iPhones or foreign devices for government staff

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Apple CEO Tim Cook attends China Development Forum 2017 – Economic Summit at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on March 18, 2017 in Beijing, China.
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China has not instituted any laws or regulations prohibiting government employees from using or buying foreign phones, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Wednesday, addressing media reports that said government staffers had been banned from using Apple iPhones.

“China has not issued any laws, regulations or policy documents prohibiting the purchase and use of mobile phones from foreign brands such as Apple,” a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said at a regularly scheduled briefing Wednesday in Beijing.

Apple shares dipped as much as 4% last week after The Wall Street Journal reported that staffers at central government agencies had been banned from using iPhones for work and even from bringing the smartphones into government offices, citing people familiar. Bloomberg reported that China planned to extend the ban to government-backed agencies and state-owned enterprises, citing people familiar.

The Journal reported that the instructions were given out verbally or in chat groups but that there was not formal guidance on the matter. The Foreign Ministry specifically denied the existence of any official policy barring foreign phone use but did not address the informal guidance reported by the Journal.

Apple shares were down less than 1% in early trading Wednesday, a day after the company announced the new iPhone 15.

The response from the Foreign Ministry spokesperson also noted unspecified “security incidents” linked to iPhones.

“We have indeed noticed recently that many media have exposed security incidents related to Apple mobile phones,” the spokesperson said. “The Chinese government attaches great importance to information and network security.”

CNBC’s Eunice Yoon contributed to this report.

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