Google, Gmail, and other Google services seem to be accessible again in China this morning, according to a report, after an outage that coincided with the start of the once-a-decade meeting to appoint a new Communist government.
Access to the services returned after 6 a.m. local time, after an approximately 12-hour outage, according to IDC News Service, which cited Google's Transparency Report, along with confirmation from GreatFire.org, a group that monitors Internet censorship in China.
Early yesterday, California time, data provided by Google's Transparency Report showed a sharp drop off in traffic to Google's Web sites -- to roughly half the normal amount. Google sent CNET a statement in the late morning saying, "We've checked and there's nothing wrong on our end."
The day before, on Thursday, the 18th Communist Party Congress began in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People near Tiananmen Square. And as The New York Times noted in its item on the Google outage, the Communist government has been known to impose, in the days leading up to the congress, clampdowns "ranging from replacing books in bookstores to banning balloons because they could carry messages of protest."
The International Business Times reported this morning that China has heightened security to "wartime levels" because of the party congress and noted that several Tibetans had set themselves on fire in recent days to protest the Chinese regime. Chinese officials threatened harsh sentencing to anyone distributing imagery of those self-immolations, the IBT reported.
Google itself has been wrestling with censorship in China for more than half a decade. In April, Google Drive was blocked. Even after Google switched to a Hong Kong domain in 2010, sensitive topics remained off-limits.
That history is in keeping with other efforts by Chinese authorities to control the online realm. Last December, Beijing's city government announced rules requiring users of local Twitter-like sites to register their real names for verification by government authorities--a move apparently meant to quash anonymous posts critical of China's leaders and rob dissidents of a tool for organizing protests.