The license for Google's China website expires at midnight, but as the workday ended it had not been renewed. The US firm antagonized Beijing this year by refusing to censor its search results.
As a midnight deadline for an annual license renewal loomed, Google was still awaiting a decision by the Chinese authorities on its application for a new permit to act as an Internet content provider.
The fate of the American search engine giant – which in January announced that it would no longer submit searches by mainland Chinese users to official censorship as required – has been watched as a test of Internet freedom in the country.
IN PICTURES: Google's doodles
“We are still waiting to hear from the government,” said Marsha Wang, Google spokeswoman in Beijing, on Wednesday afternoon. “We do not know.”
The Chinese authorities objected, however. “It is clear from conversations we have had with Chinese government officials that they find the redirect unacceptable – and that if we continue redirecting users, our Internet Content Provider license will not be renewed,” Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, said on Google’s official blog.