Google has accused China of disrupting access to Gmail in a way designed to look like a technical hitch.
The search giant on Monday said it had been getting complaints from its Chinese users for weeks, covering inconsistent access and difficulties sending and receiving emails and chat messages, but has not found any technical glitches.
As a result, Google has concluded the Chinese state is to blame for the interference, but has disguised its work to make it look like a problem with the e-mail service, WSJ.com reported.
Chinese users have also reported problems accessing VPN services, which many use to circumvent the layers of government censorship.
Analysts speculate the government is seeking to tighten its control over the internet after some citizens used social networks to call for a Jasmine Revolution along the lines of those seen in Tunisia and Egypt. The industry watchers told WSJ.com they fear the renewed censorship efforts may be long-lasting and that China may be using Gmail as a test for much stricter limitations on internet access.
The accusation is the latest in a series of spats between Google and China over censorship that last year threatened to see the search giant excluded from the country for failing to censor results voluntarily.
French authorities have also recently fingered China while probing the largest cyber attack in the country’s history.