updated 10:10 am EST, Wed December 30, 2009
Deal struck to enter Chinese market
Apple is blocking several iPhone apps related to the Dalai Lama at the Chinese App Store, a company spokeswoman admits. "We continue to comply with local laws," Trudy Muller tells IDG News. "Not all apps are available in every country." The titles are notably available in most other regions. The Chinese government considers the Dalai Lama an enemy, as a result of his advocating freedom for his former homeland of Tibet. The country was invaded by China in 1950 and remains under foreign control.
Some of the censored apps refer specifically to the Buddhist leader, including Dalai Quotes, Dalai Lama Quotes, Paging Dalai Lama and Dalai Lama Prayerwheel. Also blocked however is Nobel Laureates, an app which merely mentions the Dalai Lama as a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Apple's censorship is further noted to extend to an exiled Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer, whom China considers a supporter of separatism and terrorism. A related app called 10 Conditions cannot be found at the Chinese App Store, and developer James Boldiston confirms that the app was originally submitted for all countries.
The creator of Dalai Quotes, James Sugrue, comments that he was likewise never told that his app would be withheld. "I didn't know the app had been pulled, and wasn't informed," says Sugrue. He adds however that "Apple reserve[s] the right to do this sort of thing, and while from a censorship point of view I disagree with this, I can understand why they did."
Apple is believed to have conceded to government demands in order to secure a new market for the iPhone. While most Chinese cannot afford the device, the sheer size of the country ensures that those who do have the money will nevertheless be a large demographic. Over 300,000 iPhones have been sold in association with carrier China Unicom, and at least five times that many are thought to exist on the gray market.