Google Inc. said one of its Web search features was blocked in China on Thursday as the company awaited Beijing's verdict on whether to renew its operating license amid tensions over censorship.
Mainland users were unable to use the search giant's "suggest" feature, which offers suggestions for possible results as they start to 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 said this week it will stop the automatic switching 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.
The official Xinhua News Agency said "there will be a result soon" on the application and said Google was "very late" in submitting it. Phone calls to the Internet regulator, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, were not answered.
The deadline for requesting a renewal was Wednesday and Google said earlier without the license it would "go dark" in China. Powell said the company's license runs through 2012 but most be renewed annually and she declined to say what Google's status would be while it awaits a response.
The China-based site, Google.cn, was online Thursday and included a tab that said "we have moved to google.com.hk." Clicking on that tab takes users to the Hong Kong site.
Also Thursday, a state-run newspaper said Google is not on an initial list of companies the government plans to approve to provide online mapping services.
Twenty-three domestic companies including Google rival Baidu Inc., portal Sohu Inc. and e-commerce site Alibaba are among those expected to be approved, the China Daily said, citing the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping.