A Chinese government spokeswoman has rejected accusations by Google that Beijing is making it difficult for users of Google's email service, Gmail, in China to access their accounts.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu had a very brief answer to questions about accusations that China is tampering with Gmail access inside China.
Jiang said Google’s accusation is unacceptable, but she did not elaborate.
Asked to respond, Google spokeswoman Jessica Powell said she had nothing to add to the company’s original comment from a few days ago.
"There is no technical issue on our side. We have checked extensively. This is a government blockage," Powell said, "carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail."
A year ago, Google pulled its Chinese language Internet search engine out of China and relocated it to Hong Kong because of cyber attacks and concerns about Chinese government censorship.
Gmail users in China started having difficulties in late February, with sporadic service ranging from inconsistent to, eventually, almost complete blockage.
Mark Natkin, with Marbridge Consulting, thinks that, if Gmail had been immediately blocked in China, it could provoke "a lot of backlash".
"So, rather than do that, a more subtle approach is to do some short-term blocking or partial blocking and, in that way, to some degree, one can even attribute it - not to some government action - but to 'You have a problem with the network,' or 'You know Japan has had a major earthquake, which may have damaged Internet connection there, so this could have some influence on China connectivity to overseas sites,'" Natkin noted.
The Internet controls started around the same time that anonymous online calls urged Chinese people to hold their own Jasmine Revolutions, similar to protests that have forced several leaders in the Middle East to step down.
Chinese authorities responded to these calls with a heavy show of force at sites in the cities around the country where organizers called for demonstrations to take place.