Chinese censors disable Google searches
Chinese censors have disabled all Google searches on the mainland, blocking the US company's Hong Kong servers from delivering results.
In almost every major Chinese city, users reported that trying to access Google searches returned an error page.
The hiatus began at around 5pm on Tuesday in China. Although it was still possible to access Google's websites, searches on any topic delivered an error message.
Google was unable to immediately confirm the cause of the problem, but said it was investigating. Chinese internet users blamed the "Great Firewall" for blocking Google searches. Google's email services were unaffected.
In addition, Google said its mobile search has been partially blocked in China, leaving mobile phone users unable to use the Google search function.
The developments suggest that the Chinese government is preparing to make its move against Google, after the company moved the servers of its search engine to Hong Kong last week to avoid censorship.
At first, the move seemed to be a neat solution that would allow Google to provide Chinese users with its service without having to continue to censor search results.
Sergey Brin, the company's co-founder, even suggested, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, that the idea to move to Hong Kong had come "indirectly" from the Chinese government itself.
Under the "one country, two systems" motto dreamed up by Deng Xiaoping, China's former leader, Hong Kong retains the freedom of speech and British law left behind after the UK ceded the territory to China in 1997.
However, Google's move to Hong Kong has opened the eyes of many Chinese to the fact that they are being censored by the Communist party while their cousins in Hong Kong are not.
Since Google began redirecting mainland users to its Hong Kong site last week, the company has come under criticism from the state media, which has accused it of being part of a US "plot" to destabilise China.
The Communist party has been deeply concerned by the public's reaction to Google's departure from the mainland, and the Education ministry has even asked a selection of university students to write their "thoughts" about Google.
Similar student polls are usually conducted after major catastrophes, such as the riots in Xinjiang last year or in Tibet in 2008.
Meanwhile, the government has kept a tight leash on the domestic media, forbidding newspapers from publishing anything that deviates from the party line.
Instructions from the Central Propaganda Department to newspapers and websites said: "Only use Central Government media content.
"Do not use content from other sources. It is not permitted to hold discussions or investigations on the topic of Google. Please remove text, images, sound and video that supports Google."
Only the Chongqing Evening News was able to publish a report expressing remorse about Google's exit, after using the code words "Valley Dove", which sounds like Google in Chinese.
Other Chinese reporters have been banned from Google's offices in Beijing and all content expressing support for Google on the Chinese internet has been erased.
Meanwhile, other attacks on Google include the removal of the company's page on Renren, the Chinese equivalent of Facebook, and the blocking of a translated version of the company's blog post, in which it explains the reasons for its departure from the mainland.
Other websites which partner with Google for advertising have been told not to carry links to the blog, or its Chinese version.