Google services are being disrupted in China ahead of this week’s 25th anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, a censorship watchdog said on Monday.
GreatFire, a group that seeks to bring transparency to the Web in China, said in a blog post that the Chinese government appears to targeting Google’s main search engine and Gmail, among many other services, making them inaccessible to many users in the country.
The Chinese government already blocks websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube and imposes strict controls on what Chinese Web users may say online.
“Those officials are driving me crazy with this!” wrote one user of China’s popular Twitter-like service Weibo regarding the block of Google.
“It is not clear that the block is a temporary measure around the anniversary or a permanent block. But because the block has lasted for four days, it’s more likely that Google will be severely disrupted and barely usable from now on,” GreatFire said.
Asked about the disruptions, a Google spokesman said, “We’ve checked extensively, and there’s nothing wrong on our end.”
Google’s transparency report, which details its global Internet traffic, showed lower levels of activity from China starting around Friday, which could indicate a significant amount of disruption. The watchdog group added that the last time it monitored such a block was in 2012, but then it lasted just 12 hours.
In the past, Beijing responded to such reports by saying that all Internet companies operating in China have to obey the law, but no comment was given on Monday about the newest claims.
Google in 2010 moved its Chinese search engine service away from mainland China, the world’s second-largest economy, citing rampant censorship. It now operates it from Hong Kong.
For the ruling Communist Party in China, discussing the 1989 demonstrations that clogged Tiananmen Square in Beijing and spread to other cities remains taboo. June 4, the anniversary of when troops shot their way into central Beijing, has never been publicly marked in mainland China, though every year there are commemorations in Hong Kong.
The government has never released a death toll for the crackdown, but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.
Al Jazeera and Reuters