China has pulled the plug on Google’s Gmail and blocked the email services through third-party applications, adding Gmail to the list of services from the search company banned in the world’s largest Internet market.
The Google disruption began in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the government’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989.
Gmail’s website had been blocked in China along with every other Google services including search, images, translate, and more products like Google+, GChat, and Drive. But, it had remained usable in third-party email apps such as Apple Mail and Microsoft Outlook via IMAP/SMAP/POP servers. However, the latest crackdown shows that email services are fully inaccessible in the country and only way to access Gmail in China is with use of a VPN or proxy tool. Google’s transparency report shows that Gmail traffic in China closed to zero starting from 26 December.
“We’ve checked and there’s nothing wrong on our end,” Google said in a statement.
Gmail’s setback could make email communication difficult for companies operating in China which use Google’s Gmail for their corporate email system, said GreatFire.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she did not know anything about Gmail being blocked, adding that the government was committed to providing a good business environment for foreign investors.
“China has consistently had a welcoming and supportive attitude towards foreign investors doing legitimate business here,” she said. “We will, as always, provide an open, transparent and good environment for foreign companies in China.”
China has a long history of censoring and disrupting sites that could be used for distributing anti-government content and has also blocked some international services like Facebook and Twitter. Weibo China’s version of Twitter has strict controls over the posts on its services. Google pulled out partially from China in 2010 rather than self-censor its search engine, after it said it had found a cyber-attack that targeted the accounts of human rights activists. The company started redirecting users visiting its Chinese search site to its Hong Kong website.