TIA Insights

Sign up and have the pulse of tech & startups in Asia at your fingertips.


Yes, I care

Reports: Google Search and Other Services, VPNs Blocked in China [UPDATED]

C. Custer
C. Custer
12:22 am on Nov 10, 2012

[UPDATE 13 hours after posting: Chinese web users are waking up to find Google search, Gmail, and some other services (any many VPN hosts) restored. Obviously, long-blocked sites like YouTube are still a goner].

With something as finicky as the Great Firewall, it’s hard to ever be totally sure what’s going on, let alone why whatever’s happening is happening, but reports from net users across China are indicating that the country has blocked access to all Google services. We first came across this via the folks from Greatfire.org, who tweeted this:

Complaints from China based users on Twitter, Sina Weibo and even the commenters on our own site all seem to confirm the outage, although as it has rolled out over a Friday evening, many users likely won’t discover it until Saturday or even Monday.

Of course, everything could be back to normal by then. China’s government never officially announces that it has blocked something, and sometimes blocked sites return after a day or two. No one can be sure whether the blockage of Google services is a temporary bug, a temporary measure that will be undone when the 18th Party Congress ends, or the new status quo in China. But many China web users will be hoping it is not the latter, as the permanent blocking of Google services would leave Gmail users stranded and probably disrupt the operations of numerous businesses that have integrated Google products into their workflows. Moreover, switching on the VPN may not help, as many VPN users are reporting their VPNs are now offline, too.

On Sina Weibo, complaints about Gmail are rolling in quite quickly for such a late hour. “After the web gmail was blocked, now even Pop3/SMTP access isn’t working,” wrote one weibo user, “what can I do?” And indeed it looks like Chinese email clients are even blocking those forms of indirect access to Gmail accounts. “Fuck,” wrote another user, “did they just shut down the ports to the outside world? If I can’t get on Gmail, so be it, but why can’t QQ Mail get the mail from my Gmail account?”

Some users have suggested Google’s disappearance in China may be a DNS pollution issue, but Google has yet to announce anything on its blog, and access to Google services outside China has not been interrupted. The timing of this problem is also a bit suspicious, coming as it does at the beginning of the 18th Party Congress and occurring on a Friday evening (releasing bad news or making unpopular changes late on a Friday is a classic PR tactic, because no one reads the news on Friday evening and most people don’t read it on Saturday, either). But it is certainly possible that all of this is just a technical glitch that will be righted in the morning when China wakes up.

We recently reported that even before this latest blockage, many China based users had been experiencing unusual slowness or other problems with both VPNs and Google services, so it seems unlikely to me that the current reports that many VPNs and all Google services have been blocked are just coincidental. If you’re based in China, please let us know in the comments what you’re seeing, and whether VPNs and Google services are working for you.

(See also: Here’s a list of websites blocked in China)

Get The Latest Tech News

By email:

   Daily newsletter

   Weekly summary

   Member-only content

Sign up now

Follow us:

   

   

Have Your Say
  • Anonymous

    When i found google.com or google.com.hk is down, I felled be separated totally from the world just like the north korea people do. all the bypass tools i know failed(openvpn,goagent,freedom,tor),Now i can not use google(which is 100% the best in this planet) to search valuable information i need, no access gmail which host my personal and business email.

  • Ning

    Use Baidu.com. Support local product when google is down. Haha

  • Anonymous

    Baidu is never,ever a choice for me, total crap. I would rather use bing which is less functional than google, still much better than baidu

  • George

    Dude, why hate baidu so much? i mean i prefer google but i have nothing against baidu. their music service is quite gd though

  • http://yeow.com.ar Profesor Yeow

    Thanks for the Info. I have friend in China and can’t use Gmail.

  • asus

    Saturday 13:39 Shanghai: things seem to have improved from last night, when Google webmail was intermittently accessible but SMTP was completely out. Still experiencing dropped line every once in a while but that’s been happening for weeks, and despite getting China Telecom in to install fibreoptic line and changing wifi router. Only offline for a minute or two usually, then it reconnects. VPN – have to keep changing servers, again, it’s been like this for a while, but can eventually can hook up for youTube etc. Hassle though. F**kin commies.

  • Anonymous

    Yunnan province, China Nov10th, 10pm: Still zero gmail access between myself and fellow travelers here (although managed to get on the sign in page for about 10 seconds this morning but not past it of course). google.co.uk was the only site working this morning though at present, can get on the default google.com.hk again again now. really hope gmail opens up again soon…!?

  • S

    Sunday 10.40am in china gmail down, but accessible through Astrill VPN but ONLY on US servers, not others. Odd. Google search working, but slow.

  • craig

    My VPN hasnt worked in about 3 days, however strangely I have been able to get on facebook on my phone, “sometimes”.

    Also, blocking gmail completely does not make sense, especially with China in such an economic boom and wanting businesses to thrive and to trade with the world, why block an email account so large which I guess a good chunk of businesses use…

    I have only lived in China 3 months so far and the place makes me more and more confused about the logic here…

  • TomV

    I live in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, and I can confirm gmail is barely accessible. One little workaround that has worked the line time I tried is inputting https://gmail.com instead of just typing gmail.com, my friend’s all seem to be unable to access gmail without a vpn, my VPN on my android tablet hasn’t been working either. This morning expressvpn wasn’t working on my computer either. I could apparently connect to their servers but couldn’t access a single website. This type of crap seems like a dumb call, as mostly expats and Chinese who have lived abroad use Google services, the rest rely mostly on baidu and QQ. If this shit continues I’m going to have to find myself working elsewhere. This government should learn that paranoia towards it’s own citizens and the consequent ill-treatment of them as a result is not a very Confucian thing to practice.

  • Long Time in China

    As of December China Unicom is aggressively blocking the OpenVPN protocol. It seems to still be working with some of the other ISP’s.