Google Closes China Site In Censorship Dispute

Google Inc. closed its China website, a scant two months after threatening to do so over a censorship dispute with the Chinese government officials, and redirected users to an uncensored search engine in Hong Kong.

The search giant said that it decided to "no longer continue censoring our results" at its google.cn site.

"Earlier today we stopped censoring our search services--Google Search, Google News and Google Images on Google.cn," said David Drummond, Google chief legal officer and senior vice president, corporate development, in a blog post on the company's web site.

Within hours of Google's decision, a Chinese government official issued a statement that the search giant has "violated its promise" and is "totally wrong" to stop censoring its Chinese language search results and for blaming China for alleged hacker attacks.

Chinese government officials subsequently moved to restrict user access to Google's mainland China site, disabling certain searches for unacceptable material and blocking links.

Drummond said that Chinese users will be re-directed to Google.com.hk, where the company said it is offering "uncensored search in simplified Chinese." Google said that the site had been designed specifically for users in mainland China, delivered by its servers in Hong Kong.

Google conceded that the expected increased load on its Hong Kong servers could slow traffic.

While Drummond offered that Google "hope(s) that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services."

Google did not fully withdraw from China, retaining its local research and development presence as well as a sales team.

While Google's move is a clear repudiation of the Chinese government's censorship of its web site, the company has also turned away from some 400 million Internet users in China. How that plays out for Google is anyone's guess at this point, although only a fraction of the company's $24 billion in revenue is generated from China.

"Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard," Drummond said.

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