Google's January plans to move out of China were confirmed last night as attempts to reach the nation's version of the search engine were redirected to Hong Kong.
In a blog update, David Drummond, senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer at Google, claimed that it stopped censoring its search services including Google Search, Google News and Google Images on the Google.cn domain.
He said: “Users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong.
“Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard. We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.
“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. We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services.”
Google has introduced a mainland China service availability page, which offers a summary of Google service accessibility from within mainland China. This can be viewed here. As of Sunday, access to YouTube, sites and blogger were blocked with Google's Docs, Picasa and groups partially blocked.
In response, a Chinese government official said that Google has ‘violated its written promise' and is ‘totally wrong' by stopping censoring its Chinese language searching results and blaming China for alleged hacker attacks.
The official, in charge of the internet bureau under the state council information office who remained anonymous, said: “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.”
They further claimed that China had ‘made patient and meticulous explanations on the questions Google raised (in the talks), ...telling it we would still welcome its operation and development in China if it was willing to abide by Chinese laws, while it would be its own affair if it was determined to withdraw its service'.
He said that the Chinese government encourages the development and promotes the opening-up of the internet, but that foreign companies must abide by Chinese laws and regulations when they operate in China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said that the Google case is just a business case and will not damage the image of China, and will not affect China-US relations ‘unless someone politicises the issue'.
Andrew Lee, CEO of the Anti-Virus Information Exchange Network (Avien), claimed that rather than Google looking at what it was doing that was wrong and securing its network, or finding out what led to the compromises against it network, it instead simply threw its toys out of the crib and made up a new story about solidarity and freedom and so on.
He said: “It's a shame that so many tech bloggers have focused on the smokescreen political issues and ignored slamming Google for the real issues, that its approach to the privacy and security of its users is time and time again a huge disaster.
“The real problem is that they've got the money and the PR machine to cover it up with a different story, and swamp all those dissenting voices to avoid having to have that brief moment of introspection that might actually change things for the better…rather like a certain government, don't you think?”