China condemns Google's censorship decision

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The Independent Tech

China's government reacted testily today to Google Inc's decision to stop censoring its China-based search engine, calling the move "totally wrong" and accusing the company of violating promises.

More than two months after it threatened to shut down Google.cn if it had to continue policing the site, Google made the shift early today Beijing time.

Visitors to Google.cn are automatically redirected to the Chinese-language service based in Hong Kong, where Google is not legally required to censor searches.

"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," an official with the State Council Information Office, a Cabinet office that oversees the internet, said in a statement carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.

"This is totally wrong. We're uncompromisingly opposed to the politicisation of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conducts," said the official, who was with the office's internet bureau but not further identified.

The Hong Kong page heralded the shift yesterday. "Welcome to Google Search in China's new home." The site also began displaying search results in the simplified Chinese characters used in mainland China.

The move, in effect, shifts the responsibility for censoring from Google and to the communist government, which operates an extensive monitoring and filtering system to block content deemed unacceptable. Users in China were unable to retrieve searches on sensitive topics.

In Beijing, a few Chinese passers-by laid flowers or chocolates on a large metal Google sign outside the company's office. A large gathering of some of Google's 600 staff was held in a first floor cafeteria.

Google spokeswoman Jessica Powell said the meeting was called to update staff about the situation, but she declined to give details.

"We haven't worked out all the details so we can't ever rule out letting people go but we very much want to avoid that," said Ms Powell. "The sales presence to a certain degree could depend on the success of google.com.hk."

Much uncertainty remains about Google's operations in China. While the search engine was shifted to Hong Kong, Google.cn's map service and a free, advertising-supported music portal remain in China.

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