The "leaf" on the logo of Apple store turns green to welcome the World Earth Day in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. (Vcg/Getty Images)

Apple’s online book and film services have gone dark in China after Beijing introduced regulations in March imposing strict curbs on online publishing, particularly for foreign firms.

Attempts on Friday to access the iBooks Store and iTunes Movies services in China were met with a message in Chinese that they were “unusable,” Reuters reported.

China’s media regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, demanded that Apple halt the service, the New York Times has reported, citing two unnamed people. The regulator did not respond to a faxed request from Reuters for comment.

“We hope to make books and movies available again to our customers in China as soon as possible,” said a Beijing-based Apple spokeswoman

This is not the first time an Apple service has been made unavailable in China.

The company’s News app, launched last year, can be used in many countries by people who downloaded the app from the U.S., United Kingdom or Australia App Stores. But those trying to access the service on the mainland are shown the message, “News isn’t supported in your current region.”

The Apple spokeswoman in Beijing said that the News app had launched only in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. She declined to comment on how the app could still be used in places including South Korea and Hong Kong but was blocked in mainland China.

Apple’s second-largest market by revenue is Greater China, which includes Taiwan and Hong Kong, driven by the iPhone’s popularity in the world’s biggest smartphone market.

But the company has at times been met by official resistance from Beijing, with state media once branding the U.S. tech behemoth’s iPhone a danger to national security. In March, rules took effect that ban foreign ownership and joint ventures in online publishing and stipulate that all content be stored on servers in China. The move sparked fear of greater curbs on foreign businesses.

To shape public opinion, President Xi Jinping’s government has implemented an unprecedented tightening of Internet and media controls and sought to codify the policy within the law, a campaign critics say ignores human rights and is a burden for business.

Earlier this month, the United States labeled China’s Internet censorship a trade barrier in a report for the first time since 2013, saying that worsening online restrictions are damaging the business of U.S. companies.

Officials say Internet rules are needed to ensure security in the face of rising threats, such as terrorism and foreign ideology, that could destabilize China.

— Reuters