As popular unrest has spread throughout the Middle East and led to the overthrow or ouster of governments in Tunisia, Egypt and potentially elsewhere (stay tuned), pro-democracy activists in China have also called for protests and a “Jasmine Revolution,” which is a reference to the Tunisian revolt.
Ever vigilant against democratic reforms, the Chinese government has more successfully cracked down on the popular expression of discontent than the regimes of the Middle East. For example the word “jasmine” has reportedly been blocked by Chinese authorities on social networking sites.
Now Google is blaming the Chinese government for “politically motivated attacks” that have recently disrupted GMail service for some Chinese users. Reportedly the Chinese are going after activists thought to be behind the attempted protests.
According to The Guardian:
Chinese customers and advertisers have increasingly been complaining about their Gmail service in the past month . . . “Relating to Google there is no issue on our side. We have checked extensively. This is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail,” said a Google spokesman.
The announcement follows a blog posting from Google on 11 March in which the firm said it had “noticed some highly targeted and apparently politically motivated attacks against our users. We believe activists may have been a specific target.” The posting said the attacks were targeting a vulnerability in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser. The two firms have been working to address the issue. At the time, Google declined to elaborate on which activists had been targeted or where the attacks had been coming from.
The involvement of the Chinese government and/or its surrogates in the GMail hacking episode that prompted the partial exit of Google from China was confirmed by Wikileaks documents last year.
However, in a bit of revisionist history, Google’s Daniel Alegre, president, Japan and Asia-Pacific operations, tells the Wall Street Journal that “Google never left China”:
I think there is a misconception of whether Google is returning to China. Google never left China. We continue to service our customers as well as our advertisers. There are very large opportunities not only in terms of search but export as well.
In the Q&A interview Alegre discusses Japan, Android other aspects of Google’s strategy and operations throughout Asia.
Postscript by Barry Schwartz: BBC reports that China deny’s Google’s claim of email hacking. “This is an unacceptable accusation,” ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular news conference on Tuesday.
(Image via Shutterstock)
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