Gmail blocked in China

People’s access to Google’s popular Gmail service has been blocked in China, amid an escalating standoff between the Internet giant and the world’s largest country.

According to Google’s data, traffic to Gmail dropped sharply on Friday and has been null ever since.

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The outage affects computer applications and other services that connected with the site, such as people’s access over their cellphones and tablets or via software like Microsoft Outlook.

Direct connections to Gmail through an Internet browser have already been blocked for months, along with other intermittent disruptions since the 25th anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown this summer.

Chinese officials maintain strict control over the Internet and have previously blocked many popular online services, including Facebook and YouTube, which is also owned by Google. The censorship has spread to online banking and other services as part of a widening net of censorship in recent weeks.

One anonymous person with GreatFire, an organization monitoring Internet censorship in China, told Reuters that the government might be trying to limit Google’s growth in China.

“Imagine if Gmail users might not get through to Chinese clients,” they said. “Many people outside China might be forced to switch away from Gmail.”

In order to access Gmail, individual users and companies that use Gmail will need to use private tunnels and other methods to skirt the nation’s so-called Great Firewall.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that she did not know about the outage and maintained that the government was supportive of foreign companies.

“China has consistently had a welcoming and supportive attitude towards foreign investors doing legitimate business here," she said, according to reports. "We will, as always, provide an open, transparent and good environment for foreign companies in China.”