“This is a government blockage, carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail,” Google said in a statement on Sunday. The Chinese government has made no formal response to the service disruption.
The accusations follow pro-democracy calls in the Middle East and North Africa, with demand for similar protests in China intensifying during the National People’s Congress, China’s annual Parliament session.
Blocks on Facebook, Twitter and for a short time LinkedIn, are no longer considered news, but with increasing interference in cell phones and other technologies, it’s clear that the government are grappling with more channels, and trying harder than ever to monitor public opinion.
Gmail, Google’s email service, was relatively stable until about a month ago, when users found that Google chat was regularly disabled at certain times of the day, and that when sending or saving emails the service would disconnect.
Gmail itself as a web service often failed to load, and users were forced to try several methods including loading in HTML basic view, reloading repeatedly and using different URLs (mail.google.com or with https://) instead of the usual Gmail.com.
Typically, encountering problems within the Chinese cyberspace can be solved if a user routes their connection to other countries by using a free proxy or paid-for Virtual Private Network (VPN). Using free proxies such as Freegate or TOR had already become a hassle, but paid-for VPNs were still effective.
Since Gmail was targeted, however, one of the biggest paid-for VPN services, Witopia, has been the victim of attacks as well. It seems Google, even with its retreat from China, is facing pressures larger than ever.