Mar 21, 2011 2:05 PM GMT+0530
Users of Gmail in China have had difficulty accessing accounts, sending e-mail and using other features of the service for the past two weeks. The landing page for the Web mail service is still visible to local Internet users.
“There is no technical issue on our side,” Mountain View, California-based Google said in an e-mailed statement today. “We have checked extensively. This is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail.”
China, the world’s largest Internet market with 457 million Web users, bans pornography, gambling and content critical of the ruling Communist Party. It already blocks Google’s YouTube site as well as social-networking websites run by Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. Google moved its search-engine service out of mainland China last year and redirected users to Hong Kong to avoid having to comply with the country’s Web censorship rules.
“They will try to become more aggressive gradually,” Charles Mok, chairman of the Hong Kong branch of the Internet Society, said of China’s censors in an interview today. “Some things that were allowed or let go before, they gradually will clamp down on.”
‘Tool of U.S.’
Li Wufeng, chief of the Information Office Internet Affairs Bureau of China’s State Council, or cabinet, didn’t return a call to his office today. In a March 11 interview after Gmail users began reporting problems in China, Li said he regularly uses Gmail and that he was not experiencing the issues reported by other users of the service in China.
Google is “a tool of U.S. expansionism and hegemony,” according to a March 4 opinion piece posted on the website of the People’s Daily, a publication affiliated with China’s ruling Communist Party.
Google is “playing its political cards in China” after helping disseminate subversive content that led to disorder in Middle Eastern countries, according to the piece, written by a person identified as Zheng Yan.
The search-engine company has denied that the U.S. government meddles in its business decisions.
Google’s statement on China’s blockage was reported earlier by the Guardian newspaper.
Google has been losing search-engine market share in China to Baidu Inc. since January 2010, when the U.S. company said it was no longer willing to self-censor content in its Chinese service in line with local rules. The decision was prompted by cyber-attacks on Google’s systems that the company said originated from China, including breaches of the Gmail accounts of some human-rights activists.
Two months later, Google shut its Google.cn service and redirected users to its Hong Kong site. China renewed Google’s Internet license in July after the U.S. company stopped automatically redirecting users and put in place a page that requires users to opt for the alternative service.
Google’s share of China’s search-engine market fell to 19.6 percent in the fourth quarter from 21.6 percent three months earlier, research company Analysys International said in January. Baidu’s China market share rose to 75.5 percent from 73 percent, the researcher said.
Google isn’t alone in drawing more scrutiny from China’s censors in recent weeks. Witopia Inc., a U.S.-based Internet service that allows users to circumvent the Chinese government’s Web filters, notified customers on March 17 that its service had been blocked in China the previous week.
“We mostly provide service to expats and travellers working and doing business in China,” Witopia Chief Executive Officer Bill Bullock said an e-mail to customers in China. “People who simply want to communicate with family and friends back home using Facebook and Twitter. Not exactly revolutionaries.”
Witopia’s service in China was disrupted on March 11, Bullock’s note said. In language filled with references to the science-fiction television show “Star Trek,” Bullock vowed to provide customers in China with a solution to the new filters. Witopia didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“The Klingon Empire scored a couple solid hits on the USS Enterprise,” Bullock said in the March 17 e-mail. “As far as the state of the Enterprise, with regards to China, impulse power is restored, the warp drive and deflector shields are coming back online and, given a little time, we’ll be engaging our shiny new cloaking device.” (sourced :bloomberg)