China's foreign ministry said on Monday that it is not aware of the nation's inability to access Gmail services, in response to questions about a nationwide Gmail access failure that began on Friday and has persisted since.
"China always welcomes and supports foreign investors' legal business operations in China and will continue to provide an open, transparent and fair environment for foreign enterprises," foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a press conference on Monday.
The remark came amid a nationwide inability to access Gmail services, which has triggered widespread public discussion.
Many Net users in the Chinese mainland discovered Saturday that they could not access their Gmail accounts, even through third-party services.
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. Traffic has remained low since.
Chinese tech blogger William Long told the Global Times Monday that Chinese mainland began seeing disruptions to users accessing Gmail via a web browser in late May, but Gmail service via protocols like IMAP, SMTP and POP3 had previously been unaffected.
"If Google could change its server and direct its users to other places, Chinese mainland citizens could regain access to Gmail," Long said.
"Imagine if Gmail users might not get through to Chinese clients. Many- people outside China might be forced to switch away from Gmail," a member of GreatFire.org, a censorship watchdog, was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Gmail users waiting for important e-mails, such as university offers, job offers or clients' messages have been forced to resort to VPNs.
"I registered my university e-mail account on Gmail. I only come home [China] for vacation and now I have totally lost my connection with the university. This is a disaster for those study overseas," commented a Net user on Sina Weibo, who is a student at a US-based university.
The inaccessibility will affect trading businesses the most, because many corporations use Gmail as their main communication platform with their foreign clients, according to Long.
"However the cost of moving a mailbox is extremely high and as a result many users will not consider that," Long said.
Google's internet e-mail service was founded in 2004 and has over half a billion users worldwide.