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Chinese authorities are feared to have blocked access to popular search engine, Google, ahead of the Communist Party congress in November.

Access to Google began being blocked from Saturday, according to Reuters, with experts claiming that the block is coming directly out of Beijing.

China has blocked many foreign news services in the past buut this is believed to be the first time that a search engine has been censored in this way. No other search engines - including those serviced by Google - are thought to have been hit by the action.

Chinese authorities - not known for their liberal attitudes - are believed to have taken the action because Google seemingly provides a window to porn and could also compromise national security.

Already deeply suspicious of just about everything, China is no stranger to using such strong-arm tactics to regulate the Internet.

Last November the Chinese Government shut down 17,500 Internet cafes for failing to block sites considered subversive or pornographic.

In July 2001 Beijing shut 2,000 cybercafes and suspended a further 6,000 amid fears that the nation's youth were becoming Net addicts.

And last year a report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that China has introduced more than 60 sets of regulations to govern Internet content since the government began permitting commercial Internet accounts in 1995.

No one from Google was available for comment at the time of writing. ®

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