Google stops China censorship, but searches still blocked
BEIJING: Chinese access to websites covering sensitive topics such as Tibet remained blocked on Tuesday despite an announcement from Google that it had stopped censoring its Chinese-language search engine.
The web giant announced Monday that it had stopped filtering results on China-based Google.cn and was redirecting mainland Chinese users to an uncensored site in Hong Kong -- effectively closing down the mainland site.
Searches of subjects like "Falun Gong" and "June 4" -- referring to the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests in 1989 -- from mainland computers ended with the message: "Internet Explorer cannot display the web page".
Even when a list of results came up for other sensitive key words such as "Tibet riot" and "Amnesty International" not all of the sites could be opened and the response "cannot display the website" again was seen.
Websites of organisations deemed by China's ruling Communist Party to be hostile to the nation -- such as the Epoch Times, Peacehall and groups supporting the Tiananmen Democracy Movement -- were all still blocked.
And popular websites such as Google's video-sharing service YouTube also continued to be inaccessible from Beijing despite the re-routing through Google.com.hk.
The same searches on Google.com.hk from computers in Hong Kong displayed full results -- suggesting that China was itself using its "Great Firewall" of web censorship to keep users from having unfettered Internet access.
Google's action came a little more than two months after the Internet giant said it had been the victim of cyber-attacks originating from China.
"Earlier today we stopped censoring our search services -- Google Search, Google News, and Google Images -- on Google.cn," Google chief legal officer David Drummond said in a post on the company's official blog.
"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."
China quickly denounced the move, saying Google had "violated its written promise" and was "totally wrong" to stop censoring its Chinese language search engine and to blame Beijing for alleged hacker attacks.
Re: Google stops China censorship, but searches still blocke
Chinese media launches new attack on Google
China's state-run Xinhua news agency launched a new broadside against Google Inc on Monday, saying in an angry commentary that the company had reneged on promises to abide by Chinese law.
Speculation is swirling that Google will soon announce a decision to pull out of China, or at least shut down its Chinese search engine.
The Financial Times, citing a person familiar with the situation, said the company could say on Monday that it will close its Chinese search engine.
Google has not formally unveiled any such plans.
Two months since Google said it would no longer agree to abide by Beijing's censorship rules even if that meant shutting its Google.cn site, some Chinese Internet users and state media are baying for the company to pull out.
Xinhua, in a signed commentary, said Google had promised when it entered the Chinese market to filter its search engine for "harmful content", in accordance with the law.
"Now Google suddenly wants to break its promise, and if it's not satisfied it will criticise China for a worsening of the investment environment," Xinhua said.
"This is entirely unreasonable. What has changed is not China's investment environment. It is Google itself."
The burst of angry Chinese comments suggested that, in spite of the widespread popularity of Google amongst educated Chinese, the government is steering state-run media and websites to lump the company together with other recent disputes with Washington that have stirred nationalist rancour in China.
"Get the hell out," wrote one user on the website of the nationalist tabloid the Global Times (), in remarks echoed by other readers.
"Ha ha, I'm going to buy firecrackers to celebrate!" wrote another, in anticipation of the company confirming its departure from the online search market.
Joseph Cheng, a City University of Hong Kong politics professor, said China's ruling Communist Party was deploying nationalism to stifle debate about censorship.
"The criticism of cultural exports, or cultural imperialism, is a kind of defence to justify the Chinese authorities' censorship controls," said Cheng.