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iTunes, and Sting, banned from China

Athletes blamed for rocking out to Tibetan protest songs

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The Chinese government has blocked access to Apple's iTunes store.

Meanwhile, a US-based activist group has claimed that the People’s Republic did it to prevent anyone in the country from downloading a Tibet-themed album.

The Art of Peace Foundation (APF) released Songs for Tibet last weekend. Sting, Alanis Morissette, Garbage and other mainstream acts recorded music on the album. It also contains a 15-minute talk by the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader.

By Monday internet forums in China were being bombarded with complaints by iTunes customers who found they could no longer download music from the online store.

APF reckoned the album’s release stoked enough controversy in China for the country to block iTunes. However, the group has not been able to corroborate those claims.

"We issued a release saying that over 40 athletes downloaded the album in an act of solidarity, and that's what triggered it,” said APF executive director Michael Wohl, according to the Associated Press. “Then everything got blocked."

The New York-based group also tried to score some publicity at the Bejing Olympics by urging athletes, who were given free downloads of the album, to wear an “MP3 player during the games as a symbol of freedom of expression”.

Apple also acknowledged that some of its customers in China were currently struggling to access iTunes.

"We are aware of the logon problems but we have no comment at the moment," said Huang Yuna, a Beijing-based Apple spokeswoman told AP.

Earlier this month, a Chinese government-controlled web portal reported that “angry netizens” were “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,” it said. ®

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