Google said one of its Web search features was blocked in China on Thursday as the company awaited Beijing's decision on whether to renew its operating license in their latest skirmish over censorship.
Mainland users were unable to use the search giant's "suggest" feature, which anticipates and suggests possible results as users type a word, the company said.
"It appears that search queries produced by Google Suggest are being blocked for mainland users in China," said Google spokeswoman Jessica Powell in an e-mail. "Normal searches that do not use query suggestions are unaffected. As always, we will keep our China status page updated with the latest information."
Google's relations with Beijing have been tense since the U.S.-based search giant said in January it no longer wanted to cooperate with Chinese Web filtering.
Google closed its China-based search engine March 22 and began routing users to its unfiltered Hong Kong site. But the company this week stopped doing those switches automatically because the government objected and threatened to revoke its operating license.
The company has received no word from Chinese regulators on the status of its application to renew the license, Powell said.
Phone calls Thursday to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which regulates China's Internet industry, were not answered.