Turns out you can't download that Dalai Lama iPhone app if you live on mainland China. Interested in Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled leader of China's Uighur minority? If you live in China don't look for any apps on your iPhone that mention that person, either.
You won't find them because Apple is likely complying to local laws banning specific political or religious beliefs in the Chinese version of its App Store. The Chinese government is infamous for its "great firewall" and routinely blocks large portions of the Internet with which the governing party disagrees.
Yahoo and Google have both succumbed to repressive Chinese censorship and search and seizure laws in the past. Apple has no real incentive to fight for American values as it scrabbles for its piece of the profits in China's mobile technology boom.
Apple has run afoul of the Chinese authorities in the past, when access to the iTunes Store was blocked by the government after the company released a pro-Tibet album on the store during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.Strangely, some apps that show YouTube videos and allow access to Twitter remain available on the App Store in China, even though the associated websites are blocked on the Chinese Internet.
Some of the apps that are banned in China include Dalai Quotes, Dalai Lama Quotes, Dalai Lama Prayerwheel, Nobel Laureates, and Paging Dalai Lama. Someday maybe the Chinese will realize that a free market requires a free market in ideas, too.