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Google Blocked in China as Meeting Nears


China has blocked access to popular U.S. Internet search engine Google amid government calls to tighten media controls ahead of a major Communist Party congress.

Attempts to look at the site Tuesday through Chinese Internet services were rejected with a notice saying it couldn't be found. Users and technical consultants who monitor the Chinese Internet said the site has been blocked for several days.

"We were notified by our users that access to Google in China had been blocked. We are working with Chinese authorities to resolve the issue," said Cindy McCaffrey, spokeswoman for Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Inc.

She had no additional information about what the discussion with Chinese authorities might involve or when Google access within China might be restored.

The government is preparing to hold a congress in November that is expected to begin shifting power to a new generation of leaders. China routinely tightens controls on news and information as politically sensitive dates approach.

Google is hugely popular among China's 45 million Internet users because of its wide-ranging search capacity.

Google does not weed out material the Chinese government blocks as subversive.

China promotes the Internet for economic use and to spread the Communist government's views. But it has worked hard to muzzle the Internet as a forum for free information and discussion.

Authorities prevent Internet users from viewing sites run by Falun Gong, human rights groups and some foreign news organizations.

Police monitor chat rooms and personal e-mail and erase online content considered undesirable.

Nevertheless, many users find ways to get around the blocks, said Duncan Clark, an analyst for consulting firm BDA China.

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