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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

iTunes blocked in China after protest stunt

August 22, 2008

By Stephen Hutcheon
The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
August 20, 2008

Access to Apple's online iTunes Store has been blocked in China after
it emerged that Olympic athletes have been downloading and possibly
listening to a pro-Tibetan music album in a subtle act of protest
against China's rule over the province.

The album, called Songs for Tibet, was produced by an a group called
The Art of Peace Foundation, and features 20 tracks from well-known
singers and songwriters including Sting, Moby, Suzanne Vega and
Alanis Morissette.

It was released as a download on the iTunes Store on August 5 - three
days before the start of the Olympics - with the physical CD launched
on Tuesday this week.

The Foundation provided free downloads of the album to Olympic
athletes, urging them to play the songs on their iPods during the
Games as a show of support.

Funds raised from the sale of the album are being used by the
non-profit Foundation to support  "peace-related projects that are
dear to the Dalai Lama", the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader whom
China regards as subversive.

On Monday, expatriate iTunes users living in China began experiencing
technical problems with their previously unfettered access.

That was the same day the US-based Campaign for Tibet organisation
claimed on its website that "over 40 Olympic athletes in North
America, Europe and even Beijing" had downloaded the album.

Apple's customer forums contain numerous examples where users have
complained about experiencing these technical problems.

Although some iTunes account-holders suggest that the problem is with
Apple, according to several forum posters and bloggers working in
China,  the source of the technical hitch is being attributed to the
Great Firewall of China - the umbrella term given to China's system
of internet censorship.

A blogger calling herself JeninShanghai has reposted what she says is
a reply she received from Apple's customer support after reporting
that she had problems with her US iTunes Store account.

"iTunes is not being blocked in China from our end, but access to the
iTunes Store IS restricted in some areas in China. This would also
explain why it's happening to your friends there as well," the response reads.

"I would advise that you contact your ISP [internet service provider]
about this matter. Please also note though that accessing the US
iTunes Store outside of the geographic region of the United States is
not supported, and that attempting to access it while in China is at
your own risk."

The apparent blocking of the iTunes Store raises some thorny issues
for Apple which opened it's first bricks-and-mortar store in Beijing
on the eve of the Olympic Games.

"This is the first of many stores we will open in China," said Ron
Johnson, Apple's senior vice president of retail, in remarks at the
store opening in July.

The company, whose CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs is a practising
Buddhist, is also negotiating with Chinese mobile phone operators to
launch the highly successful iPhone.

iTunes Stores are locked to specific countries. In the case of the US
iTunes Store - the biggest music retailer in the country - only
holders of US-issued credit cards or US-issued iTunes gift
certificates can purchase music and videos.

Many US, European and Australian expatriates living in China access
their home-based iTunes Store accounts from China where they can
purchase and download music , videos and podcasts. However,  because
of the block, that is no longer possible. The album is currently
available on the Australian iTunes Store.

According to a report published in the semi-official Chinese news
portal,, "angry netizens [internet users] are rallying
together to denounce Apple in offering Songs for Tibet for purchase.
They have also expressed a wish to ban the album's singers and
producers, most notably Sting, John Mayer and Dave Matthews, from
entering China."

The report, published in English, goes on to say that some netizens
are even calling for a boycott of Apple products, including the
iPhone when it is eventually released in China.
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