HONG KONG – Google has discontinued its Google Translate services in mainland China, removing one of the company’s few remaining services that it had provided in a country where most Western social media platforms are blocked.
The Google Translate app and website now display a generic search bar and a link redirecting Chinese users to its page in Hong Kong, which is blocked on the mainland.
Users reported not being able to access the service since Saturday, according to Chinese social media posts. The translation feature built into the Google Chrome browser also no longer functions for users in China.
The Google Translate service was discontinued in China due to “low usage,” Google said in a statement. It is not clear how many users were using Google Translate in China.
The U.S. technology firm’s has a fraught relationship with China. In 2010, Google pulled its search engine from the Chinese market after it became unwilling to abide by the country’s censorship rules.
China later moved to block other Google services such as its email service Gmail and Google Maps.
Chinese authorities typically block most Western social media platforms and services, including those of Google, Facebook and Twitter as the government seeks to maintain strict censorship rules. Chinese platforms must abide strictly by those rules and censor keywords and topics the authorities deem politically sensitive.
In 2017, Google made its translation service available on the mainland via a Chinese domain as it explored ways to offer services in the Chinese market. Its Google Translate service competed with other popular, homegrown translation alternatives provided by Chinese technology firms including Baidu and Sogou.
Google had explored launching a separate, censored search engine for China, but terminated the project in 2019 amid a global backlash.