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Dalai Lama ding-dong

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China appears to have tightened up its Great Firewall, interfering with Google services in what appears to be a reprisal against the Chocolate Factory playing politics.

Access to the Android Marketplace has been blocked entirely from within China as The Next Web reports, but locals are also complaining that Android handsets are having a hard time getting onto the Gmail service. The Gmail block isn't being applied to IMAP connections, which means iPhones and similar are working well, lending weight to the idea that this is a political, rather than a security, issue.

The absolute block on android.com started over the weekend, just after Google announced it would be helping the Dalai Lama to (virtually) visit South Africa. That might be coincidence, but it's not the first time that China has been accused of using restrictions on internet access as a political tool.

Google doesn't have any servers in China, as the ad giant has refused to self-censor as required by Chinese law. Google's servers in the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong can be accessed from mainland China, but connections are often unreliable and slow, which pushes locals into the arms of rival services such as Baidu.

For mobile applications there are plenty of local application stores, not to mention rampant piracy. Companies such as HTC run Android stores within China, but avoid competing with Google elsewhere.

From within China it is far from obvious that Google is being blocked, rather it appears that the Chocolate Factory runs simply slow servers over unreliable connections.

So outright disconnections, such as those still affecting android.com, are rare. It could be a simple mistake, or perhaps there genuinely is a security issue being hosted on the service, but more likely it's intended to remind Google that if it ever wants access to the largest mobile phone market in the world, it is going to have to play by China's rules. ®

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