Apple CEO Tim Cook will co-chair the 18th annual China Development Forum, a Chinese government event held in Beijing from March 18-20, according to a Wall Street Journal report this morning. The announcement of Cook’s role in the event comes only months after U.S. senators accused Apple of “enabling the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance of the internet,” and two days before Apple hands over Chinese iCloud accounts to a Chinese government-controlled company.

Billed by the WSJ as the “Chinese government’s showcase global business forum,” the China Development Forum is annually co-chaired by one Chinese and one foreign business leader and enables Western corporations to improve relationships with Chinese government officials. Cook spoke gingerly at last year’s Forum, gently suggesting that China should further open itself to the world and stating his belief that individuals should be able to own and control their own data. He has made increasingly frequent visits to the country over the past two years.

In contrast to Apple’s bold public proclamations regarding users’ privacy and security rights — including tense face-offs with U.S. officials over unlocking iPhones — the company has repeatedly complied with Chinese government demands that impact customers in the country. Last July, Apple removed virtual private network (VPN) applications from China’s version of the App Store, preventing Chinese users from using iOS apps to view content that lacks Chinese government approval. This month, Apple will turn over Chinese iCloud accounts and security keys to a…

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