In an effort to work through some of its issues with the Chinese government and circumvent Web censorship, Google is pulling its search operations out of the mainland and routing Chinese traffic through the company’s Hong Kong portal. Google will leave its engineering and business operations in China proper.
In a statement on its official blog, Google said it was no longer censoring search, image and news results. Though Google is serving the data through Hong Kong, the results are “specifically designed for users in mainland China.”
On a historical note, Hong Kong, like other coastal outposts around China, owes its success to such moves. Western companies looking to ignore the will of Beijing have been setting up shop there for centuries, although trying to end censorship is a far cry from forcing opium on the Chinese market. Hong Kong is also no longer a colony. As a special administrative region of China, the island metropolis has only limited independence from Beijing.
China maintains some of the toughest controls over its citizens’ Web access and, if the government so chooses, should have no problem blocking access to Google’s rerouted search page (or perhaps censoring results without Google’s consent).
It’s a pickle for Google, which, ethics aside, views an open Internet as good for business. The company is also worried about a recent hacker attack, which it said originated in China.
But it’s a huge market that cannot be ignored. And Google already has stiff competition from the home-grown Baidu search engine and others. —PZS
AP via Yahoo:
It’s unclear whether Google’s attempt to skirt China’s censorship rules by using Hong Kong as a back door will cause more acrimony.
“Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard,” David Drummond, Google’s top lawyer, wrote in a Monday blog posting. “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.”
Illustration from an image of Hong Kong by Flickr user skyseeker