Google Searches Blocked In China

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Chinese web users are complaining that standard searches on the Google Hong Kong website have been blocked

Web users in China are complaining that the Hong Kong website of Google, is returning an error page on every standard search.

The problem reportedly began sometime on Tuesday in China. Although it was still possible to access Google’s Hong Kong website, searches on any topic apparently delivered an error message, sparking fears that they are being blocked by the Chinese Government.

Other reports stated that standard searches from Google’s Hong Kong page resulted in the internet connection being reset, so no results were displayed. Apparently even innocuous words such as “Manchester United”, “Sandra Bullock” or “Beijing Olympics” crashed searches.

However, tests conducted by eWEEK Europe UK found that the site was returning search results as of 5.15pm BST in London on Tuesday.

The problem reportedly only affected standard searches, and it did not affect any search attempts from toolbars on various browsers, as well as the advanced search function on the google.com.hk page. Google’s email services were also reportedly unaffected.

Google is investigating the issue, but was unable to confirm the cause of the problem. According to the Daily Telegraph however, Chinese internet users are blaming the “Great Firewall” for blocking Google searches.

According to the newspaper, Google has confirmed that its mobile search has been partially blocked in China, leaving mobile phone users unable to use the Google search function.

Last week, Google announced that it had closed its mainland Chinese office, and that it had stopped censoring its Google Search, Google News, and Google Images sites on Google.cn. It instead redirected those who visit the Chinese search engine to its Hong Kong site (Google.com.hk), where it is serving uncensored search in simplified Chinese.

The move came after Google complained back in January that the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights activists had being hacked, and the search engine giant threatened to exit China as a result.

The Chinese Government however has consistently denied it was behind the attack, and told Google that it should follow the law when Google threatened to stop censoring Chinese search results. The row didn’t stop there however, and it quickly escalated into the political arena. A speech by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton calling for greater Internet freedom drew an angry response from the Chinese Government.