Google yesterday began redirecting traffic from its Google.cn site to Hong Kong, which isn’t subject to Beijing’s censorship laws. However Beijing could still crack down on Google by restricting the links that can be clicked on by mainland users.
Google’s Hong Kong move appears aimed at allowing it to continue its China business, despite an earlier threat to close its operations. That threat followed discovery of attempts to hack into its Web site, attempts Google believes originated in China.
China reacted angrily. A government official told the state news agency Xinhua: “Google has violated its written promise it made when entering the Chinese market by stopping filtering its searching service and blaming China in insinuation for alleged hacker attacks.”
“This is totally wrong. We are uncompromisingly opposed to the politicisation of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conducts.”
Google responded with a blog explaining its actions, saying among other things: “We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we’ve faced it’s entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China.”
Google’s end to censorship means Chinese people can search for information on subjects like Tibet, and the Tiananmen Square crackdown. However, the results can’t all be accessed inside China, because government filters restrict the links that can be accessed.
While Google’s latest action has earned praise from free speech advocates, some business commentators have questioned the wisdom of its approach.