China has pointed to iPhone security concerns while saying it would not ban purchases, the first government comment on the topic after news reports that authorities were restricting use of Apple products by sensitive ministries and state-owned enterprises.

“We have noticed that there are more media reports on Apple phone security incidents,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said at a regular news conference in Beijing on Wednesday, without elaborating.

China plans to extend its ban on iPhone use to a host of state-backed companies and institutions, Bloomberg reports, signaling a growing challenge for Apple in its largest foreign market and global production base. Some organizations have begun instructing employees not to bring iPhones to work.

“China has not yet enacted laws and regulations prohibiting the purchase of Apple or foreign brand mobile phones,” Mao said, adding that the government takes security “very seriously” and all companies operating in China need to abide by its laws and regulations.

Mao Zedong’s comments about the security incident differed slightly from the official English translation of the press conference. The translation, issued simultaneously by the ministry at the scene, omitted reference to media “reports.” Foreign Office briefings are usually tightly controlled and spokespersons’ responses are often written in advance.

Just hours after this press conference, Apple launched its latest flagship device, the iPhone 15. The company launched four new models that keep pace with past generations: iPhone 15, 15 Plus, 15 Pro, and 15 Pro Max.

If Beijing goes ahead with its iPhone ban, the unprecedented blockade would be the culmination of years of efforts to root out foreign technology used in sensitive environments, as Beijing also works to reduce its reliance on U.S. software and circuits.

It could weaken Apple’s position in a market that accounts for about a fifth of its revenue and where it makes most of the world’s iPhones through vast factories that employ millions of Chinese.

© 2023 Bloomberg

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