Google launches Chinese holiday travel map amid row

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The Independent Online

Google has launched a map search service in China for travellers taking trips during the Lunar New Year holiday season, despite a row over cyberattacks and censorship.

"The service is available online now," a spokeswoman for Google China, Marsha Wang, told AFP on Tuesday.

The Google Spring Festival Map is based on the company's regular map service but has "more features" targeting users' special needs during this month's holiday, the busiest travel period of the year in China, she said.

The special map provides information including real-time flight status, train schedules and ticket prices, highway conditions and weather updates, according to a statement posted on googlechinablog.com.

About 240 million people are expected to crowd China's trains and planes for the holiday, according to government estimates.

Chinese traditionally return to their home towns and villages for family reunions with this year's travel period stretching from January 30 to March 10. The Lunar New Year falls on February 14.

Google last month threatened to abandon its Chinese-language search engine google.cn, and perhaps end all operations in the country, following hack attacks it says targeted the email accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

It has also said it is no longer willing to bow to Beijing's army of Internet censors - and will stop filtering search results soon, a move China says would violate its laws.

US and Chinese officials have discussed the issue at length, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton qualifying her latest talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi as "open and candid."

But the row is one of an ever-increasing list of issues threatening relations between the United States and China.

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt reiterated last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the Internet giant wanted to stay in China, but also said he hoped censorship rules would change.

Wang said Tuesday it was "business as usual" at Google China's headquarters in Beijing.

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