China shuts off iTunes, iBook services apparently to block “Ten Years” movie

In still from movie, Youth Guard members  egg a booksore

In still from movie, Youth Guard members egg a booksore

JISHOU, HUNAN — China’s media censors have abruptly shut off access to Apple’s iTunes Movie and iBook stores, just before a dystopian movie about Hong Kong’s future became available for download on the services.

The film, Ten Years (十年 shí nián), depicts a Hong Kong of 2025, where the former British colony’s freedoms have been washed away by mainland government rule. The independent film recently won the 2016 Hong Kong Film Award for Best Picture.

Apple had been given permission to operate the stores in China seven months ago, but the iTunes movie and iBook stores went dark on the 15th. No official explanation was given, but The New York Times reported that the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) had ordered the services closed.

The cutoffs happened just as the movie became available on Apple’s Hong Kong iTunes stores. Only mainland holders of Apple accounts are affected; those with accounts based abroad can still access the services. Apple Music is also unaffected.

China’s censors earlier blocked reporting of the film’s award, and imposed a blackout on televising the awards program.

The film paints a less than positive picture of mainland rule in Hong Kong, with language police, neighborhood spies, and youthful cadres reminiscent of the Red Guard of the Cultural Revolution.

SAPPRFT has gone on a censorship spree for the last several months, banning or forcing producers to sanitize everything from kiddie cartoons to online comedy monologues.

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