China bans Google? (Again?)

[Update: The BBC article regferenced below turns out to be from long ago – sorry about that confusion (see comments for more information). Meanwhile, the reports from other bloggers and readers in China of Google currently being blocked seem to be accurate, though the block appears to be sporadic; it’s probably linked to yesterday’s anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Let’s hope that the ban is a temporary one.]

For much of the time when I lived in China, Google was banned along with the NY Times, Washington Post, BBC and, of course, countless other sites. Then, as suddenly as the ban was imposed, it was lifted – at least for several of those sites (not the BBC). Now, it appears the ban is back for Google. This is odd, to say the least, since Google has bent over backwards to appease accommodate the boys in Beijing. (I also find it odd that the article states categorically that this is the first time Beijing has blocked a search engine. Everyone living in Beijing in 2002 most likely remembers when Google was unavailable.)

China appears to have blocked access to the popular search engine, Google. The site was repeatedly inaccessible when tested by BBC News Online using a system developed by researchers at the Harvard Law School.

Google has become popular among users in China because of its simplicity and ability to run searches in the Chinese language. China maintains tight controls on the internet, blocking several foreign news sites and frequently forcing domestic sites to remove controversial material.

Analysts say this is the first time Beijing has blocked access to an internet search engine. It comes ahead of a Communist Party congress in November which is expected to see sweeping changes to the country’s leadership.

So can you access Google in China now, or is this another case where the ban comes and goes, seemingly at whium?

Thanks to Keir in the forum for bringing this up.

The Discussion: 33 Comments has been unavailable for quite some time now along with hotmail. works though

June 2, 2006 @ 9:15 pm | Comment

My google Desktop still works, for now anyways…..I still blame google more than the Chinese authorities…..

June 2, 2006 @ 9:35 pm | Comment

I have no problem with google in Shenzhen

June 2, 2006 @ 10:03 pm | Comment

google is working in beijing – but i had problems a couple of days ago

June 2, 2006 @ 11:10 pm | Comment

If you use CERNET, China’s university network, (along with Gmail) comes and goes capriciously; overall, I’d guesstimate it’s available 80-90% of the time.

June 2, 2006 @ 11:37 pm | Comment

NOW ULTRASURF (what I use to keep in touch with civilisation) IS BLOCKED. Fascists.

June 3, 2006 @ 1:46 am | Comment


June 3, 2006 @ 2:35 am | Comment

It’s definitely not working at my apartment or office here in Beijing, although at work we’ve set up Tor and FoxyProxy in Firefox to get around it (I can’t quite get that working at home on my mac, though!). I’ve posted about it on my blog.

June 3, 2006 @ 3:08 am | Comment

google is totally blocked in beijing. what the fuck! fuck them! who the fuck are they to decide how i search for stuff….fuck this!


June 3, 2006 @ 3:59 am | Comment

They’re just trying to protect you. (Dripping with sarcasm like Niagra Falls)

Seriously, try

June 3, 2006 @ 4:48 am | Comment

heh, what I find amusing is that they need a “system” devised by Harvard Law School to test if google is blocked in China…

What happened to simply calling (or emailing) people to Ask or simply connecting to the internet via a Chinese proxy?

June 3, 2006 @ 6:24 am | Comment

My proxy no longer works. Next. Why the HELL should I be forced to ask foreigners to kindly tell me what is going on outside this country just because this fascist country is run by ignorant assholes?

June 3, 2006 @ 7:11 am | Comment

Excuse the language.

June 3, 2006 @ 7:12 am | Comment

No problems with Google, Gmail, Hotmail, MSN in Guangxi.

June 3, 2006 @ 9:18 am | Comment

Still having problems with Google and Gmail in Beijing.

June 3, 2006 @ 10:27 am | Comment

I gather should be a civilized site, and I like it, however, I really can’t abide with those “respected” foreign friends. No vulgar, dirty language,pls!
Most of the time. I work well with google, honestly. I can also try yahoo!. Sadly, I can’t access to…
Discuss politics rationally, never get emotional, hold you mouth or fingers when you’re inclined to criticize groundlessly…

June 3, 2006 @ 8:32 pm | Comment

The Google thing is more a brownout than a blackout. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. To me this suggests less a deliberate ban than the implementation of some new Great Firewall scripting that interferes with Google logons, which was the case last year when Gmail stopped working for a bit because of a collision between the embedded ads and the Internet filters.

I was wondering: is anyone here having recent problems logging into other sites that used to be OK, or have new trouble accessing POP3 email accounts?

June 3, 2006 @ 9:51 pm | Comment

it works again today, sort of.

sorry about the foul language, but taking away my google, is like taking my arms away. the internet becomes crippled. use yahoo??? ya right!!! even when google has its hands tied behind its back, like here in china, it’s still tons better than any other search engine.

TPD has also not worked well the last couple of days. the brownout comment seems accurate.

June 3, 2006 @ 11:09 pm | Comment

POP3 email accounts went down at my office and for me personally about three weeks ago already. At first they were working intermittently, then not at all. For our work emails, it was enough to turn on SSL for incoming mail–that switched the port to one that was not having issues. For my personal mail (or perhaps the issue is my Mac…I’m not sure) that hasn’t been enough to guarantee consistent email access.

Oh, and Google is still 100% down for me here in Beijing :(.

June 3, 2006 @ 11:12 pm | Comment

Totally variable for me in Beijing – up one day, down the next. has worked consistently, and I’d assume that this would be because of the date rather than a plan to for-real block Google. Would expect things to go back to normal in the next few days, just going by historical precedent.

Luke, is always blocked, at least for me. A proxy (I use Tor plus the Torbutton Firefox extension) will get you there with no problem.

June 4, 2006 @ 12:03 am | Comment

This recent trip to China, I had a lot of problems accessing Yahoo and also earthlink webmail. I could do it eventually but it was really a pain in the ass.

I’d like to come and live in China, but the internet censorship is a major disincentive…

June 4, 2006 @ 12:26 am | Comment

Thanks for that confirmation, Alexandra. It was starting to drive me crazy. Occam’s razor would suggest that the death of normal POP3 connects, the Google brownouts, and the login problems all stem from new layers of Internet filtering being imposed. Unfortunately, SSL isn’t an option in my case.

I assume that Brendan is right about things returning to “normal” in a few days after the Chinese side irons out the kinks in their system and the foreign service providers build workarounds. In the latter case, Google knows that its dot-com address is more effectively “branded” than dot-cn, so I don’t think they’re going to sit around and lose hundreds of thousands (millions?) of Chinese customers to the competition.

June 4, 2006 @ 4:12 am | Comment

Google is fine from Shanghai, with occasional outages of minutes in length. They do tend to step up blocking at this time of year (June 4), so whatever is happening now may not be permanent.

June 4, 2006 @ 7:45 am | Comment

Richard you might want to blog on this commentary.

How Japan Imagines China


June 4, 2006 @ 7:59 am | Comment

Actually, though I like to blamethe see see pee for a lot of problems, this is not one of them directly.

For example, if you ‘ping’ several times, over several minutes, you’ll notice 2 different IP addresses are coming up. This is due to the Chinese government moving there DNS off of the CERN approved DNS servers and onto their own DNS servers.

Ivan, as always, is correct: the site is accessible. But if you search for tiananmen, the first 10 matching links are all blocked. Good catch, but no meat.

the difference being this. The “great firewall” is not really a firewall, in the truest since of the word. It does not block ‘ports’, it filters content. A firewall blocks channels or “ports”, not content.For example, your mobile phone has different “ports”. One port, numbered port 1, is for incoming calls. Another port, numbered port 2, is for incoming text messages (SMS).
A ‘firewall’ could be configured to ‘block’ incoming signals (port 1, or port 2). The firewall could not however :selectively: ~some~ signals from entering the port. It could not ~selectively~ block incoming calls (port 2) unless it had a database to lookup which to ignore, which to accept.This is how “call-blocking” works. If you subscribe to the service, indicate that sertain telephone numbers be blocked, the those calls will never reach your telephone number. This requires the telephone company to have a database. This database maintains a list of “reject” telephone numbers for your telephone number.
The Chinese gov system is even more awesome. It actually “searches” the entire HTML of a website (like google and others do). The contents of the page are compared (not in context) to a list of, shall we say unacceptable phrases or terms. If the page does not pass muster, then that PAGE is blocked by the firewall. I cannot emphasize how incredibly difficult and complex a task it is to block a “PAGE” of text.
To explain it technically, it means that the system is working on a ‘packet’ level.
the sytem does not *only* just block sites (, it has the capability of blocking individual packets of internet traffic.

I’m afraid to post a detailed technical desciption of how it works, for obvious reasons, but trust me in this. I you think the see see pee is only capable of blocking a website, it is far, far worse than you think.

Anonymous (Gilligan’s boss’s boss’s boss)

June 4, 2006 @ 10:38 am | Comment

No one’s mentioned the obvious here, and it didn’t occur to me until this AM either – wonder if the google brownout is connected with the anniversary today…

June 4, 2006 @ 1:16 pm | Comment

Err… Richard, that BBC item is from 2002. The Beeb hasn’t detected any new blocking.

June 4, 2006 @ 7:50 pm | Comment

Thanks myrick — it was posted in the Duck Pond, and I didn’t check the date. Meanwhile, I have gotten lots of reports that Google has suddenly been blocked in China, though it now seems like a temporary phenomenon linked, as several here have speculated, to yesterday’s date.

June 4, 2006 @ 8:04 pm | Comment

Anon, “Great Firewall” is more a play on words than a technical description. However, it does block some ports (for example, the POP3 ports Alexandra and I use) and IPs/addresses, which are the kinds of things a classical corporate firewall can do. But you’re right, China’s Internet filtering is sophisticated and multi-layered.

June 4, 2006 @ 11:17 pm | Comment

It is still fully blocked in Beijing (google and gmail, even

It is already a week and for those using gmail to work we are loosing business!!!!! Really starting to get pissed off with a certain regime…

June 6, 2006 @ 7:34 pm | Comment

I have been in Beijing for a year, and I can bear witness to the fact that Gmail is often inaccessible.

June 6, 2006 @ 8:46 pm | Comment

Did anyone else notice that this comments page stops at the firewall?

June 6, 2006 @ 10:48 pm | Comment

Take today, for example. Today’s Gmail accessibility was about 50% at best. In other words, of the several times that I attempted to check my email, half the time Gmail was blocked.

I really do enjoy being here, but I must say, the continued and persistent blocking of Google and Gmail has really irritated me.

June 7, 2006 @ 7:34 am | Comment

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