Internet Users Fear iTunes Blocked in China

The downloading of music for iPod players has hit a mysterious glitch in China, stumping scores of users and raising fears the government has blocked Apple’s iTunes site over pro-Tibet lyrics, analysts said on Thursday.

Since Monday, more than 60 people have posted messages in an Apple Inc discussion forum complaining that they could not download songs for use on Apple’s iPods.

Their complaints follow the release of The Art of Peace Foundation’s new album “Songs for Tibet,” a compilation of tunes about the rights of ethnic Tibetans in China’s mountainous southwest.

Tibet, which Communist troops entered in 1950, suffered violent rioting in March, which led to anti-government demonstrations across Tibetan areas of China, deeply embarrassing Beijing just months before the Olympic Games.

In an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde published on Thursday, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, accused Chinese troops of opening fire on protesters in eastern Tibet on August 18, adding that he had unconfirmed information that 140 people were killed.

IT analysts in China said on Thursday that Beijing has probably severed the music selection function of the iTunes site. China is known for using technology to block Web pages that contain politically sensitive content.

“The possibility of a block is high, and I’d say it should be due to a content issue,” said Liu Bin, associate director of the Beijing consulting firm BDA, after he tried to connect to the iTunes site.

The core URL “seems to be stopped on the China side” but worked when accessed from abroad, said Danny Levinson, CEO of a digital direct marketing company in Shanghai.

Apple acknowledged an iTunes access problem on Thursday but declined to explain. “We’ve seen the situation but can’t offer any more information,” Apple’s Beijing publicist Yuna Huang said.

A flap over an iPod product warranty and questions about a contractor’s treatment of Chinese workers hurt the company’s reputation in China in 2006.

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