Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Lan Lan: Surfing on a sea of Chinese prohibitions

After a period of searching for terms deemed sensitive, Google would not open for some time

Seated at my computer yesterday, I tried a random series of tests of the new Google service. It was clear that sites dealing with thorny political issues were not open to the average surfer. I tapped terms such as "Tibet", "Xinjiang", "Dalai Lama" or "Tiananmen Square massacre of democracy activists" into the Google search box. I did not get anything beyond "the webpage cannot be opened". I tried some more. I tapped in "Falun Gong", the group that the Chinese government has declared a cult and banned. This prompted very differing results. After hitting "Search", sometimes I could not get through to the Google site at all.

Then I tried the Chinese leadership. First of all, "Hu Jintao," the president. Again, the message came up: "The webpage cannot be opened". Then I tried the premier, "Wen Jiabao". This time the message said: "Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage." Other searches of sensitive issues that I tried came up with a list – but I could not get beyond the links.

One thing about getting on to Google's Hong Kong site was that I was delighted to see that the Chinese language was using the simplified characters that are used in mainland China, as opposed to the more complicated traditional script used in Hong Kong.

After a period of searching for terms that would have been deemed sensitive by the Chinese authorities, Google would not open for some time – although other search websites would.

The writer's name has been changed