A block on Google in China is nearing its third week, and some are predicting it could last a while longer.
Google search, Gmail and other services from the Internet giant became inaccessible on May 30 ahead of the anniversary of the Tiannamen Square massacre on June 4, 1989, when Chinese troops attacked unarmed pro-democracy protesters in Beijing, killing somewhere between a few hundred and thousands of people. The country's censors have kept a close eye – and used a heavy hand – on discussion of it.
Google confirmed that the block wasn't their doing, nor were there any technical problems on their end. The company moved its servers to Hong Kong from mainland China in 2010 after refusing to continue to self-censor search results.
Chinese web users are doing their best to get around the block. A growing number are using virtual private networks (VPN) to access Google from the mainland. Another popular option is a Google mirror site, which has added the line, “If there’s no struggle, there’s no freedom,” to the Google logo. The website puts out a call for users to protest on Twitter-like site Sina Weibo and mobile messaging app WeChat:
The GFW (Great Firewall) has blocked all services from Google, including important science and research academic resources. If you think it’s unacceptable, please repost this message on Weibo and WeChat. In the beginning of 2013, after the GFW blocked [hosting service] Github, many programmers complained on Weibo, and in the end, the GFW gave up and unblocked it. If there’s no struggle, there’s no freedom. Please repost this message and put pressure on the GFW.
According to the website, it has over 100,000 visitors every day. On FreeWeibo.com, a website that makes available Weibo accounts that have been censored on Sina Weibo, both “Google” and “If there’s no struggle, there’s no freedom” are listed as the top censored keywords.
One of the founders of censorship watchdog GreatFire.org told newspaper Global Times via email that the block on all Google services is the longest in the history of the Chinese mainland's Internet:
Google products are critical for users in high-tech industry, especially programmers. Such effects might not be immediate, but over the long-term, the Chinese technology sector will lag behind if the block is permanent.
Many academics have been particularly upset not being able to use Google Scholar, a search engine for academic texts. A Weibo user, “Chen Shixu,” wrote:
I'm very disappointed by the government's decision to block all Google services, I usually use Google to find documents for research, so a block on Google means cutting all professionals in China off from the rest of the world.
His post was soon deleted and is now only available on FreeWeibo.com.
One professor, Zhan Jiang, says the block has affected his ability to download teaching resources. He said he feared it might continue until tensions between the U.S. and China over cyber security have been solved.
But it isn't simply a problem for academics, as Weibo user “Wang Ran” explained:
The block on Google first and foremost affects Chinese people's interests.