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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China lifts iTunes block but for Tibet album

August 27, 2008

Verne Kopytoff, Chronicle Staff Writer
The San Francisco Chronicle
August 26, 2008

Apple Inc.'s iTunes online music store is back up and running again
in China after it was apparently blocked last week by local authorities.

However, the Web page for downloading a pro-Tibet album, which is
suspected of prompting the crackdown, remains unavailable on the service.

Chinese users started having problems logging in to iTunes last week,
immediately raising suspicions that the Beijing government was trying
to censor "Songs for Tibet," an album released by the Art of Peace
Foundation, an organization that supports Tibetan independence. The
album features songs by Sting, Dave Matthews and Alanis Morissette,
along with a 15-minute speech by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan leader in exile.

Michael Wohl, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based group,
said his group released the album to highlight the limits of free
expression in China. He said that 40 American Olympic athletes in
Beijing had downloaded the album as a symbol of protest against the
Beijing government, but that they wanted to remain anonymous because
of fear of retribution by China or the International Olympic Committee.

China has long walled off Web sites that diverge from the official
position on topics including Tibet, Taiwan and the Tiananmen Square
protests. That censorship was in the spotlight during the Olympic
Games in Beijing, which ended Sunday.

To help win the right to host the Games, China had promised to loosen
its tight control of the Web. A firestorm of criticism eventually
forced the government to carry through with its pledge, and it did so
only partially by relaxing restrictions on some foreign news sites
while continuing to block a number of Web sites of human rights groups.

A spokesman at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., was
unavailable for comment about iTunes. An Apple spokeswoman
acknowledged that the service is now available in China.

An article on China.org.cn, a new Web site operated by the Chinese
government's Internet Information Center, said "Songs for Tibet" had
"ignited strong indignation" among Chinese Web users. Some users said
they would boycott Apple products, including the popular iPhone,
which is so far unavailable in China, the article said.

There was no mention in the article about iTunes being blocked.

Cupertino's Apple has no iTunes stores specifically for China.
Instead, Chinese Internet users must visit the U.S. site or those for
other countries.

Lucie Morillon, the U.S. representative for Reporters Without
Borders, an advocacy group that promotes free expression, said the
temporary inaccessibility of iTunes and continuing unavailability of
"Songs for Tibet" is an example "of the intolerance shown by the
Chinese authorities toward Tibetan culture and dissident voices."

In addition to being inaccessible on iTunes, the "Songs for Tibet"
album cannot be reached from China on Amazon.com or Google's YouTube
video service.

Chronicle employee Olivia Wong contributed to this report.
E-mail Verne Kopytoff at vkopytoff@sfchronicle.com
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