In Brief

China blocks Google for Tiananmen anniversary

Google has fallen foul of the Great Firewall of China in advance of Tiananmen commemoration

Google's search and email services are being blocked by the Chinese government in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, according to a leading censorship watchdog.

Greatfire.org reports that the China's firewall, which filters all internet access on the mainland, began blocking Google last week.

According to the South China Morning Post, "servers could not access Google.com, Google.com.hk, or Gmail in Beijing, Shenzhen, Inner Mongolia or Heilongjiang" yesterday morning. Google said that disruption began on Friday, and a spokesman for the company told Reuters: "We've checked extensively and there's definitely nothing wrong at our end."

Chinese officials have stepped up security both online and on the streets to prevent any repeat of the pro-democracy demonstrations that took place 25 years ago this week. A military crackdown on June 4 1989 resulted in hundreds or even thousands of deaths.

The Chinese government routinely censors the internet and restrictions are usually ratcheted up each June as the anniversary of the protests approaches, though Google has not been blocked to this extent since a 12-hour total ban in 2012.

"It's not clear if the block is temporary or permanent," says Greatfire.org, "but because the block has lasted for four days it's likely Google services will be severely disrupted and barely usable from now on." 

Greatfire.org founder Charlie Smith described the latest block as more "devious" than that of 2012, when access was blocked entirely. "This time," he said, "only 90 per cent of Google is blocked so users think there's a problem with their computer or Google itself, when instead it's censorship." 

Sina Weibo, China's largest social media platform, has been censoring "Tiananmen" and "25 years ago" for the past two weeks, according to the South China Morning Post.

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