The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Chinese officials have closed access to Apple’s iTunes Store after getting wind of Olympic athletes downloading Songs For Tibet, which features songs by the likes of Rush, Underworld, and Moby. (Proceeds go to “peace-related projects” that were hand-picked by the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.) The ban came shortly after the Art Of Peace Foundation, which backed the project, sent out a press release saying that “over 40″ athletes participating in the 2008 Olympic Games had used download cards they were given to download the album, thus “speaking” their mind about the geopolitical situation when the Games’ rules forced them to remain silent on the issue. This isn’t the first time musical support of Tibet has caused the Chinese government to clamp down, of course, and it’s unlikely to be the last.
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.
For its part, Chinese news sources are denouncing Apple and all the performers on the album, and calling for a boycott of any person or company associated with the project.