Pro-Tibet Album Blamed For Chinese iTunes Blocking

Dennis Faas's picture

Chinese iTunes users are reporting problems with the site, prompting speculation the government may have blocked the service in response to a popular pro-Tibet campaign album.

There's no official confirmation that this is the reason -- or indeed that the site is being blocked -- but it certainly is likely, given that the problems began on Monday, one day after the Art of Peace Foundation began promoting its release, "Songs of Tibet".

The album contains music from the likes of Sting and Alanis Morrisette, plus a 15 minute speech by the Dalai Lama. The publicity drive included the announcement that 40 Olympic athletes had downloaded the album after the group offered it free of charge to competitors. Some of them actually did so while in Beijing for the Games.

After message board erupted with reports from Chinese iTunes users complaining that they couldn't access the site, Apple confirmed problems. A company spokesperson in Beijing said "We are aware of the log-on problems but we have no comment at the moment". She wouldn't give details on how many users were affected. (Source:

The official Chinese edition of iTunes doesn't include music (but does include the iPhone apps store). However, users can log onto other versions of the service, most commonly the main US version. (Source:

Chinese users posting on support forums say it isn't unheard of for the site to have connection problems, but they are usually fixed quickly. The four day outage is so unusual that some, including Art of Peace Foundation director Michael Wohl, believe the government must be blocking the site.

It certainly wouldn't be a first for the Chinese authorities. Although the country now has more Internet users than any other nation, its harsh censorship laws allow officials to close any site containing pornography, violence, or material deemed a threat to national security -- which is often used to silence pro-democracy campaigners.

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