China has escalated things to the next level in its ongoing dispute with Google. Since the company’s Gmail service was blocked in mainland China six months ago, it was until now still accessible with third-party mail applications such as Outlook or Apple Mail.
This “loophole” now seems to have been closed by the Chinese, with Gmail completely blocked for anyone in China. Google says it appears to have been blocked from Friday last week, acknowledged by company spokesperson Taj Meadows, who said on Monday that “there’s nothing wrong on our end”.
China “completely unaware” of Google Mail block
In a press conference this week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that she was completely unaware of the situation, saying that the government “always welcomes foreign businesses to carry out relevant work in China”. ‘Completely unaware of the situation’ seems to be a euphemism for ‘we are blocking Google’ in this case.
There has been no reason given for shutting down Google services, but typically censorship like this has come at the time of politically sensitive events or goings-on in the capital like political conferences. Right now, there’s no immediately obvious reason why Gmail would be blocked in its entirety.
The last time that Google suffered such an attack by China came back in June, just before the anniversary of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square protests. The company’s services such as Google+, Google Chat and Google Drive, were all shut down. The Wall Street Journal (in English and Chinese) were also blocked.
Internet search censorship
Google suffered at the hands of Beijing in 2010 after the U.S. company had stopped censoring its Internet search results in China. The ongoing issues with the authorities then prompted Google to move most of its Chinese operations to Hong Kong, after which is has remained hard to access Google services on the mainland.
Gmail users will now have to access mail via virtual private networks (VPN’s) or other methods that can still circumvent the censorship. But then again, why bother as there are plenty of other email services that currently aren’t blocked in China.
Source: The Wall Street Journal