As China weighs whether to renew Google's Internet business license, the search giant confirmed Wednesday that its Chinese-language Web service has been partially blocked.
Google (GOOG) said that China-based searches using the company's "Suggest" tool, which helps users narrow their searches by recommending popular queries, has been blocked. On its mainland China service availability dashboard, Google switched its Web search icon to "partially blocked" (10% to 66%).
"It appears that search queries produced by Google Suggest are being blocked for mainland users in China," Google said in a statement. "Normal searches that do not use query suggestions are unaffected."
The blockage could foreshadow Google's complete exile from China, after officials there rejected Google's attempt to evade government censorship by redirecting users to a site based in Hong Kong which, while part of China, has looser information restrictions than the mainland.
Seeking a Compromise Solution
Hoping to reach a compromise with the Chinese government, Google said Monday that instead of automatically redirecting users to its Hong Kong-based search engine, the company would turn its main China page into a landing site that redirects users to the Hong Kong site when they click on the link.
In a blog post, Google said "It's clear from conversations we have had with Chinese government officials that they find the redirect unacceptable -- and that if we continue redirecting users our Internet Content Provider license will not be renewed (it's up for renewal on June 30).
"Without an ICP license, we can't operate a commercial website like Google.cn -- so Google would effectively go dark in China," the company said.