Reuters

BEIJING

Google Inc’s Gmail was blocked in China after months of disruptions to the world’s biggest email service, with an anti-censorship advocate suggesting the Great Firewall was to blame.

Large numbers of Gmail web addresses were cut off in China on Friday, said GreatFire.org, a China-based freedom of speech advocacy group. Users said the service was still down on Monday.

“I think the government is just trying to further eliminate Google’s presence in China and even weaken its market overseas,” said a member of GreatFire.org, who uses a pseudonym. “Imagine if Gmail users might not get through to Chinese clients. Many people outside China might be forced to switch away from Gmail.”

Google’s own Transparency Report, which shows real-time traffic to Google services, displayed a sharp drop-off in traffic to Gmail from China on Friday.

“We’ve checked and there’s nothing wrong on our end,” a Singapore-based spokesman for Google said in an email.

Almost all of Google’s services have been heavily disrupted in China since June this year, but until last week Gmail users could still access emails downloaded via protocols like IMAP, SMTP and POP3. These had let people communicate using Gmail on apps like the Apple iPhone’s Mail and Microsoft Outlook.

China maintains tight control over the internet, nipping in the bud any signs of dissent or challenges to the ruling Communist Party’s leadership.