Apple's latest product, the red iPhone, has caused controversy in mainland China ahead of launch on Friday for allegedly being related with the Dalai Lama.
Chinese netizens found that the (Product) RED branding was removed from Apple's Chinese mainland website and the (RED) initiative is supportive of the Dalai Lama who is seen as a secessionist by China.
The company will be giving a proportion of profits from the sales of the new model to (RED), an initiative that supports the nonprofit Global Fund's efforts to get rid of the world of HIV and AIDS.
Despite the good intentions, the (Product) RED branding was not posted on Apple's Chinese mainland website despite being available on Apple's other regional websites.
The removal of the (Product) RED branding has raised various kinds of speculation on the Chinese Internet.
Some suspect that it was due to China's new NGO law which forbids overseas NGOs to conduct or fund activities that are deemed profitable or political.
Apple did not reply to a request for comment from the Global Times.
The discussion led some Chinese netizens to dig further into the matter and find that (RED) had sent a birthday wish to the Dalai Lama on Instagram on July 7 last year.
China considers Tibet a "core interest" of the country and sees the Dalai Lama as a separatist. The country has insisted that foreign leaders refrain from meeting the Dalai Lama.
The discovery of (RED)'s birthday wishes has infuriated many Chinese Net users who have called for the boycott of the red iPhone in the Chinese mainland. One netizen said foreign firms that prosper in the Chinese market while sabotaging the country's sovereignty behind its back are not welcome.
China is Apple's most important market. The company generated $16.2bn in the Greater China region in the first quarter of fiscal 2017 that ended on December 31, 2016, compared to $18.37bn in the first quarter of fiscal 2016.
Apple has been working with (RED) for 10 years, releasing a number of products under this branding. Apple raised more than $130m through the sale of (RED) products.
According to the Shanghai-based news website guancha.cn, Apple has modified the Web pages related to the aforementioned products to remove the branding.