The comments are the first time a Chinese official has mentioned Google by name since the company's surprise announcement last week that it was reconsidering the future of its business in China following what it said was a "sophisticated attack" by hackers.

The company is to meet Chinese officials after saying that it would no longer follow Chinese internet censorship laws and warning that it may have to pull out of China altogether.

It was not immediately clear if Google had found evidence to link any of its staff to either the theft of its intellectual property or alleged attempts to access Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents.

'Business as usual'

On Monday, Google said it was "business as usual" in China and its employees were at work, after local media reports that some staff had had their access to Google's global network cut off and could no longer work.

The company had previously said it is no longer willing to bow to Chinese internet censors by filtering search results on google.cn, but was seeking talks with the government on a solution.

Senior US government officials have said they are pressing Beijing for an explanation over the dispute.

China says the row will not affect Sino-US ties, but has also insisted that Google and other foreign Internet firms must obey its laws.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said on Monday that expatriate journalists in a "few" bureaus in the capital had discovered that their Gmail accounts had been hacked, with messages forwarded to a stranger's account.