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Bing was one of the few remaining foreign search engine accessible from within China's so-called Great Firewall.

Microsoft-run search engine Bing was unavailable in mainland China attempting to open cn.bing.com results in an error message, though users can still access Bing's worldwide site using a virtual private network (VPN), which allows people to circumvent China's "Great Firewall" of censorship. It is important to note that Google left the Chinese market back in 2010 due to censorship issues with Chinese government.

The Financial Times cites "two sources familiar with the government's order", who confirmed that China had blocked the search engine.

"We've confirmed that Bing is now inaccessible in China and are engaged to determine next steps".

Should Bing be blocked, it would mark Microsoft's second setback in China since November 2017, when its Skype internet phone call and messaging service was pulled from Apple and Android app stores.

Cyber watchdog Cyberspace Administration of China had said on Wednesday that it had deleted more than 7 million pieces of online information and 9,382 mobile apps.

Bing had been allowed to operate in China after agreeing to censor its search results to remove "politically sensitive" content but its closure may reflect Beijing's intolerance of foreign tech companies, particularly ahead of the 30-year anniversary of its bloody crackdown on student demonstrators in Beijing.

Washington has also led efforts to blacklist Chinese telecoms giant Huawei internationally over security concerns, and one of the company's top executives, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada last month over fraud allegations on a United States request.

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Attempts to open cn.bing.com has resulted in an error message for users since Wednesday.

Bing's temporary disruption came as a surprise because the search engine has followed China's censorship rules. "This is just the Chinese authorities being the Chinese authorities".

Microsoft has continued to operate in China, even as many other United States tech companies have been blocked or have pulled out.

What triggered China to block the search engine isn't clear. It had only a 2 percent share of the country's search market, according to StatCounter.

Microsoft President Brad Smith told FOX Business on Thursday that its Bing search engine has been blocked in China.

"People in China can not access Bing, this is not the first time it's happened".

Smith said it was understood that Bing did not have the same legal freedoms in China that it enjoyed in other countries.