(Adds Yahoo's comment on Flickr)
BEIJING, July 3 Access to online services such
as messaging app Line and photo-sharing site Flickr was
disrupted in China this week, a step that anti-censorship groups
said was carried out by the government to block information
about pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Reuters reporters in China were unable to send messages on
Line, owned by South Korea's Naver Corp, and
KakaoTalk, owned by South Korean firm Kakao Corp. Both companies
told Reuters they did not know the cause of the disruption or
when service would return to normal.
Users and Reuters reporters also could not access Yahoo
Inc's Flickr photo-sharing site and Microsoft Corp's
OneDrive cloud storage service.
Microsoft declined to give immediate comment. Yahoo said it
was aware of the Chinese reports and investigating the
"This is not a technical malfunction," said a member of
China-based anti-censorship site GreatFire.org, who goes by the
pseudonym of Charlie Smith.
"I imagine these latest blocks are attributable to the Hong
Kong demonstrations," Smith said, adding that the services may
have been blocked because they can be used for photo sharing.
On Tuesday, thousands of pro-democracy protesters marched in
Hong Kong in one of the biggest challenges to China's Communist
Party rule in more than a decade.
Some users of Chinese microblog Weibo Corp who
commented on the march said on social media that their accounts
had been blocked or removed.
Chinese authorities with oversight of the Internet were not
immediately available for comment.
Line said that it already cooperates with China's government
to censor banned phrases. "In order for Line to advance into
China, there was the need to adapt to the local environment," a
company spokeswoman said.
Since President Xi Jinping took power last year, the
government has throttled online dissent and harshly punished
those it views as critics of Communist Party rule and threats to
its stability. Campaigns to "clean the Internet" and get rid of
rumour-mongering and pornographic material have affected both
domestic and overseas Internet services.
China has also disrupted a number of Google Inc
services for the past month, including Google's search engine,
Gmail e-mail clients and its online advertising services.
The Google disruption began in the run-up to the 25th
anniversary of the government's bloody crackdown on
pro-democracy demonstrators around Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
(Reporting by Paul Carsten, Gerry Shih and Beijing Newsroom in
BEIJING, Se Young Lee in SEOUL and Teppei Kasai in TOKYO;
Editing by Miral Fahmy and Leslie Adler)