Google Inc closed its China-based search service and began redirecting web searchers to an uncensored portal in Hong Kong on Tuesday. Though part of China, Hong Kong with its semiautonomous status due to its past history as a British colony, and Google is not legally required to censor results there. The company said it intends to continue research and development in China, as well as maintain a sales staff there, even after closing Google.cn and rerouting traffic to the unfiltered search site in Hong Kong. China reacted to the move by saying Google was “totally wrong” and had “violated the written promise it made on entering the Chinese market”. The Chinese government on its part denied involvement in Internet hacker attacks said to have generated from China and defended its online. The USA had urged Beijing to investigate complaints of cyberintrusions, after Google complained its site was hacked from China, especially endangering the emails of human rights activists in Tibet and Xinxiang.
The standoff that began on January 12 culminated with “Welcome to Google Search in China’s new home.” displays to search results in the simplified Chinese characters that are used in mainland China. However, the results can’t all be accessed inside China, because government filters restrict the links that can be clicked by mainland audiences. The Chinese-language version of Google search in the US as well as the mapping and music services on Google.cn have been untouched. The Chinese government has reacted by threatening to block access to Google’s other services, such as YouTube, which is owned by Google and social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. The tensions with China have prompted Google to delay plans to sell some new wireless phones running on its mobile software. David Drummond, Google’s top lawyer said “Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard. We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a nonnegotiable legal requirement.”
Before 2006 Chinese users could search through Google sites such as Google.com, although filters inside China kept people there from clicking through to links generated by queries such as “Tiananmen Square massacre”, 93Dalai Lama94, 93Uighur94. But when Google tried to better reach Web users in China by setting up Google.cn, it meant complying with rules requiring the omission of search results the government deemed subversive or pornographic. But this compliance sparked criticism by Google supporters, including some of its own employees, who believed the company was violating its “Don’t Be Evil” motto. The worlds largest internet search company vowed to shake loose from government-imposed restraints on the Internet; after it determined that Google and more than 20 other US companies were targeted in computer hacking attacks originating from China. Although Google never made a direct accusation the Chinese government role was
Google had earlier hoped to persuade China to let it run a search engine that could deliver unrestricted results; failing that wanted a common ground to maintain its research center and sales team in the country. Google which earned US$250 million to US$600 million from China said its decision to re-route traffic to an uncensored Hong Kong site for users in mainland China is 91entirely legal92; but China issued a blistering public attack on Google through a high-profile Communist Party newspaper. It seems by challenging Chinese government, Google appears to have violated an unspoken rule of doing business in China, especially in the Internet industry where Beijing feels its crucial to maintaining its authoritarian rule. This has resulted in realignments of business. Tianya.cn, a popular portal with 32 million registered users, said it was taking full control over social networking and question-and-answer services operated jointly with Google. China Unicom Ltd., one of China’s biggest mobile phone companies, hinted that it would shelve plans to offer two cell phones made by Motorola and Samsung with Google’s Android program. Publicly, Google’s continuing to work with its Chinese business partners by providing them with censored search services in an effort to abide by already existing contracts.
The U.S. State Department meanwhile has said it was not involved in Google’s decision over its search engine, and championed for internet freedom. This has added to Beijing’s concerns about collusion and aggravated recently tense U.S.-China relations. With growing pessimism in the US and European business community that Beijing was closing off access to the domestic market, Google is likely to face a tough road ahead to rehabilitation in the China market.