Gmail fight in China

Google Inc., the world’s largest
Internet search company, said China’s government is blocking its Gmail service,
after users reported trouble accessing the site.

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. “Some things that were allowed or
let go before, they gradually will clamp down on.”

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.

 In a 11 March 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.

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