BEIJING – A Google search feature was blocked in China on Thursday, the company said as it awaited Beijing’s decision on whether to renew its operating license amid tensions over censorship.

Google Inc. said mainland users were unable to use the search giant’s “suggest” feature, which offers possible results as they start to type a query. When it works, the feature may offer Chinese users a reminder that “tiananmen square massacre pictures” are available — but perhaps blocked — when they simply start typing in “tiananmen.”

“It appears that search queries produced by Google Suggest are being blocked for mainland users in China,” Google a spokeswoman said. “Normal searches that do not use query suggestions are unaffected.”

Although Google services such as YouTube do get blocked from time to time, the new constraints are the latest example of the Chinese government using its power to make Google’s search engine a less convenient option on the mainland.

Google this week stopped automatically redirecting traffic from mainland China to its Hong Kong site after the government warned the maneuver could result in the loss of the company’s Internet license in the country.

Google’s relations with Beijing have been deteriorating since the U.S.-based search giant took a stand against the government’s online censorship rules in response to computer hacking attacks that the company traced to China.

Google closed its China-based search engine March 22 and began routing users to its unfiltered site in Hong Kong. With the shift, Google hoped to be able to maintain its technological toehold in one of the Internet’s most important markets while sticking to its free-speech principles.

But the Chinese government’s threats to take away Google’s license indicate it may punish Google for its defiance. Losing the Chinese license would be a significant setback for Google, even though China will only account for a fraction of the company’s projected $26 billion in revenue this year.