Access to Google services were disrupted in China on Monday, days before the 25th anniversary of the pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square and the Government’s subsequent crackdown.
The Chinese government is believed to have been targeting Google Inc’s search engine and email service Gmail since late May, making them inaccessible to many users in China, according to a blog post by advocacy group GreatFire.org.
It is unclear whether the Government intentionally planned the block to coincide with the anniversary of the protests, which remain a sensitive subject for the country’s ruling Communist Party.
In the last month, the Chinese authorities have detained several activists who had attended a meeting about the protests in 1989, including prominent rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, prompting concern in the United States and Europe.
“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,” the group said.
A previous block to Google services in 2012 last only 12 hours, GreatFire said.
“We've checked extensively and there's nothing wrong on our end,” a Google spokesman said of the disruptions.
Citingits opposition to rampant censorship, Google Inc. moved its Chinese search engine out of mainland China in 2010, and now operates from Hong Kong.
The disruptions are in addition to strict controls already imposed on on what can be said online.
Internet users in China, the world’s second-largest economy, are already blocked from using popular websites including Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube.
Thursday will mark the anniversary of the date on which troops shot their way into central Beijing in 1989 - a date never been publicly marked in mainland China. However, annual commemorations are held in the city-state of 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.
Additional reporting by Reuters