China which has garnered some great visability worldwide from the 2008 Olympic Games is now opening up the iTunes music store.
The SF Chronicle reports the story. 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.