Beijing: Apprehending that the fast spreading Internet could be used by dissidents to challenge its hold on power, the Chinese government has allegedly blocked Gmail service in the country.

After month-long online disruption of Gmail service, the Chinese government has been accused by search giant Google of fully blocking the mail service in the country on Monday. This alleged attempt by the Chinese government coincided with an Internet campaign calling for protests in the Arab nations.

Google started getting complaints about interruptions in access to Gmail service ever since the "Jasmine" uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt last month, which subsequently spread to several other Gulf countries.

While China blocked all information relating to these protests in Chinese language Internet services, used by over 457 million people, Google and Gmail services experienced periodic disruptions after overseas Chinese dissident groups started calling for similar protests in Chinese cities, which were put down with iron hand by Chinese police.

The American search engine, which patched up with Chinese government after a prolonged wrangle last year over periodic interference of its content with intrusive censors, said in a statement on Monday that investigations carried out by it to look into recent disruptions found that there was no technical problem.

"There is no issue on our side; we have checked extensively," Google said in the statement.

"This is a government blockage, carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail," it said.  

Beijing based foreign correspondents also received stern warnings from the police not to break rules while attempting to cover any such protests.

Subsequently, China for the first time started blocking Virtual Private Net (VPN) services which provided direct Internet services to overcome Chinese Internet firewalls.

Gmail has become difficult to access even through the VPNs.

Google, which had 35 per cent of Chinese market before it shifted to Hong Kong following spat with the government, managed to return to Chinese market this year after obtaining a new license accepting stringent censorship rules governing the Internet in China.

Google's return was largely attributed to the wooing of the burgeoning Chinese Internet market which has emerged world's largest with over 457 million connections.

The Chinese government appeared worried about the speed with which Internet has spread in the country and emerged as a threat to the tightly controlled official media.

According to recent reports China has over 100 million microbloggers who managed to establish networks of their own despite ban on social network websites like Twitter and Facebook. Most of the Chinese bloggers are hooked on to Chinese messaging networks like Tencent QQ, generally referred to as QQ.

(Agencies)