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Google's service availability dashboard for China shows that on Sunday, access to the company's mobile service became partially blocked, a development that again raises concerns about whether the company's recent decision to stop censoring search results in China will have an impact on its mobile interests.
When Google last week began re-directing search queries in mainland China to its servers in Hong Kong, the Chinese government's displeasure appeared to influence some of Google's partners in the country. China Mobile reportedly canceled a deal to feature Google Search on its home page and China Unicom reportedly delayed its introduction of an Android-based phone, through there are some indications this delay had been planned for months.
It's not immediately clear whether the mobile service interference is the result of intervention by the Chinese government, steps taken by Chinese telecom companies intended to support Chinese government dissatisfaction with Google, or a temporary glitch attributable to regular service fluctuations in a country where network interference is common.
Asked to comment, a Google spokesperson said only, "We can confirm that our status page indicates that Mobile services are partially blocked from within mainland China."
Other Google services that have been previously, and continue to be, partially blocked in China include Docs, Groups, and Picasa. Blogger, Sites, and YouTube remain completely blocked.
At the time this article was filed, it was early Monday morning in Beijing. The mainland China service availability page has yet to be updated to reflect current conditions. Google typically updates the page one or more times per day, though at no set schedule.
While Chinese authorities have issued instructions for how the state-controlled media should react to Google's rejection of censorship -- what the government characterizes as a "high-impact incident" -- Chinese Internet users and some local newspapers have apparently flouted the government's guidelines by publishing an allegory about the company's flight to Hong Kong.
According to The Financial Times, Chinese netizens have posted stories about Gu Ge, words which mean ancient dove in Mandarin and also sounds like Google's name.
The ancient dove, according to a translation by China Digital Times, "is currently almost extinct in mainland China. The original Chinese Google Doves have migrated to the south, Hong Kong, in large numbers. Many animal lovers went to the Google park in Niaoguan village in Beijing to mourn its leaving."
The use of such allegories to comment on sensitive subjects in China has precedents. Last year, stories about the Grass Mud Horse, the word for which sounds like a Chinese obscenity, were used to ridicule the government's crackdown on Internet smut.