Beijing, Sept. 2 (Reuters): China appears to have blocked leading search engine Google, sparking speculation of a crackdown on Internet content viewed as subversive ahead of a Communist Party Congress in November.
The US-based website, which has become popular among Internet surfers in China because of its simplicity and ability to run thorough Chinese-language web searches, was inaccessible via Chinese servers as early as Saturday, users said.
“It’s being blocked out of Beijing,” said one industry insider, who follows China’s regulation of the Internet closely and used his computer to confirm and pinpoint the block.
The government openly attempts to control web content in China, where the Internet threatens Communist Party control over the media.
It blocks several foreign news sites and frequently forces domestic sites to expunge content deemed unwholesome. An article posted on web portal NetEase.com said Google was being blocked because searches could bring up links to pornography, content associated with the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong and information deemed harmful to national security.
China’s media censors tend to be particularly edgy during politically sensitive times, analysts said, and a Google block may be an attempt to sweep up ahead of the Party Congress, which is expected to see sweeping leadership changes.
It was the first time the government had blocked access to an Internet search engine, analysts said.
“It’s pretty surprising,” said Nathan Midler, a senior analyst at International Data Corp in Beijing.
“Google, as a search engine, doesn’t necessarily conjure up the idea of a website worth blocking.”