Chinese plead with Google not to quit

Web users risk wrath of state with floral tribute outside internet giant's Beijing HQ

Google's threat to withdraw from China sent shockwaves through the country's internet users yesterday. Some pleaded with the search engine not to abandon them, while others applauded its tough stance after it uncovered cyber attacks on Chinese human rights activists.

While there was no official reaction from the government, ordinary people lit candles and left flowers outside the company's headquarters in Beijing. "Google – a real man" read one note attached to a bouquet at the Tsinghua Science Park. In such a politically charged environment as China, where dissent is not tolerated, the laying of flowers is a daring move.

Security at the science park has declared the act "illegal flower donation", according to a flurry of Twitter messages. "China has created a new term: 'illegal flower donation'. To put 'illegal' and 'flower donation' together in one phrase, we live in an era of truly distorted values," said one Tweet. (Although use of Twitter is blocked by the so-called Great Firewall of China, the web-savvy use virtual private networks or proxy servers to get around restrictions.)

China's online community is the world's biggest, with 338 million users, and the sheer scale of the outpouring illustrates the irritation of many with Beijing's "net nannies" and highlights the difficulty China faces in stopping freedom of speech online.

China's booming economy needs the internet, but the government dislikes the platform it provides for dissent and has tried to control content and steer it towards commercial applications, rather than into politically murky waters.

News that hackers had been trying to spy on Chinese dissidents and US and European human rights campaigners using Google's email system, brought swift retaliation from the Californian company. It said it would no longer censor search results on its website, as it controversially promised to do when it set up Google.cn four years ago. It was the highest-profile act of defiance by a foreign firm in China in the face of Communist Party influence.

So far the response from the Beijing government has been muted. An official with the information office of China's State Council, the country's cabinet, said that internet authorities were seeking more information on Google's statement. "It is still hard to say whether Google will quit China or not. Nobody knows," the unnamed official told the Xinhua news agency.

Everyone, from carmakers to widget factories to visiting theatre groups, has to bow to the government's stringent rules on how they operate in China. However, if a company of the stature of Google makes a stand on issues of censorship and freedom of speech, it could cause others to act in a similar fashion.

Chinese reporting of the story has focused on the fact that the decision triggered fears of job losses for 700 local staff, but there has been no reference to broader issues about censorship.

Google's China-based Google.cn site agreed to censor results by excluding sites that cited the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, Tibetan independence or Falun Gong. With around 30 per cent of search revenues last year, Google trails local competitor Baidu, which has about 60 per cent, but has been gaining market share.

As Baidu shares yesterday surged,its top executive called Google's move "hypocritical". "What Google said makes me sick," said Sun Yunfeng. "If you are to quit for the sake of financial interest, then just say it."

Cong, a 25-year-old internet user who lives in Beijing, said she preferred Google to Baidu. "But I don't like that it quits China for censorship," she said. "I know censorship is not fair sometimes. But I hope they can talk to the government, rather than blackmail them. I feel optimistic about this issue, since China is too important to lose."

Out of site: Internet censorship - By Jack Riley

In a country where censorship is rife, it's little surprise that of the internet's treasure trove of illicit, and often explicit, information, huge swathes are kept from the Chinese public via a number of highly advanced technological methods. The People's Republic of China has made more than 60 regulations on what is and isn't allowed on the internet in the country, which are enforced by an army of internet police, although the exact number is not known; conservative estimates say there are tens of thousands of them.

Though a version of Google.com was available earlier, it was 2006 when the first self-censored version of Google's search engine, Google.cn, appeared, and 2007 when the company's shareholders voted down a proposal which sought to resist censorship globally, after a Harvard study estimated that more than 18,000 websites were absent from search results in the country. The censorship process is shrouded in secrecy, but blocking a site involves suspending internet traffic destined for computer servers which have been flagged by authorities as containing unsuitable content as part of the government's $800m "Golden Shield Project", as well as banning any site whose address contains any of a number of potentially unsuitable keywords.

Blocked content goes deeper than just searches for pages related to the Tiananmen Square massacre or Taiwanese and Tibetan independence, though: in 2008, a former university professor described Google as "a servile Pekingese dog" for censoring his name from search results, after he founded a democratic opposition party which raised the ire of authorities.

Suggested Topics
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home