China: Online music store blocked because of pro-Tibetan album

21 August 2008
 Access to Apple’s online iTunes Store has allegedly been blocked in China after it emerged that Olympic athletes have been downloading and possibly listening to a music album advocating Tibetan independence

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

On Monday 18 August the The Art of Peace Foundation’s director and the US-based International Campaign for Tibet organisation claimed on its website that “over 40 Olympic athletes in North America, Europe and even Beijing” had downloaded the pro-Tibetan album from iTunes. On the same day, expatriate iTunes users living in China began experiencing technical problems with their previously unfettered access to the online music store, reported Sydney Morning Herald.

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.

According to a blogger, an iTunes representative wrote to her that “iTunes is not being blocked in China from our end, but access to the iTunes Store IS restricted in some areas in China.”.

‘The Olympic spirit’
“The downloading of the album represents an understanding that compassion and non-violence can overcome intolerance and oppression — beautiful ideals to be associated with the Olympic spirit,” said Michael Wohl, executive director of the Art of Peace Foundation:

“Though you can stop people from speaking out, you can’t stop them from listening and thinking.”

International Campaign for Tibet, Students for a Free Tibet, and Team Darfur assisted in getting the athletes in touch with the foundation.

‘Boycott all Apple products’
On 8 August the semi-official Chinese news portal,, managed by the Information Office of the State Council, quoted saying that “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 article refers to online forums where people have made remarks to express their anger, even those who have been fans of the artists in the past. “Some say they will boycott all Apple products from now on, including the popular iPhone, which is not available in China since negotiations among Apple, China Mobile and China Unicom broke down,” wrote

About the album
‘Songs for Tibet’ was released as a download on the iTunes Store on August 5 — three days before the start of the Olympic Games — with the physical CD launched on 19 August 2008. The Art of Peace Foundation furthermore provided free downloads of the album to Olympic athletes, urging them to play the songs on their iPods during the Olympic Games as a show of support.

Following international media coverage of the album it has become a top seller in the US, Europe and Japan and hit the number 4 spot on Billboard’s Top Downloaded Digital Album chart. Funds raised from the sale of the album are being used to support “peace-related projects that are dear to the Dalai Lama”.





Click to go to
‘Songs for Tibet’ – blocked in China


‘Songs for Tibet — Freedom Is Expression’ – video on YouTube

5 August 2008. Duration: 1:56 minutes


Information about the album ‘Songs for Tibet’

Art of Peace Foundation:

Google News – continously updated:

Search: China + ‘Songs for Tibet’

Sydney Morning Herald – 21 August 2008:

‘iTunes blocked in China after protest stunt’

The Wall Street Journal – 19 August 2008:

‘Over 40 Olympic Athletes in Beijing Download Tibet Solidarity Album ‘Songs for Tibet’ ‘ – 8 August 2008:

‘Netizens incensed over Tibet album on iTunes’

Home / News / China: Online music store blocked because of pro-Tibetan album