Google has finally shut down its search engine service in mainland China. It subsequently began directing Chinese users to its uncensored search engine in Hong Kong. David Drummond, Google’s Senior Vice President, and Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, wrote,
Earlier today we stopped censoring our search services—Google Search, Google News, and Google Images—on Google.cn. 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. Users in Hong Kong will continue to receive their existing uncensored, traditional Chinese service, also from Google.com.hk.
But word has also been spreading that China will, to quote Christina Larson, “lean on Internet-service providers within China to block access to google.com.hk.” The Twittersphere had an air of vehemence in response to this, with Michael Anti retweeting the following:
RT @heicailiao: For HKers like myself, Google’s move shows how valuable HK’s autonomy is. We must not budge, not an inch.
Human rights groups and activists were quick to applaud Google’s stand against censorship. Amnesty International told The Guardian,
It’s very welcome news that Google appears to be moving back towards these principles. This now lays down the gauntlet to other internet companies operating in China: to be transparent about what filtering and censorship the government requires them to do and to stand up for free speech where they can, using legal appeals and other judicial measures.
The Committee to Protect Journalists also welcomed the ‘principled’ move:
In the long run, however, we hope that it ramps up pressure on the Chinese government to allow its citizens to access the news and information they need to be informed and engaged citizens.
The White House, meanwhile, expressed disappointment. National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said,
We are disappointed that Google and the Chinese government were unable to reach an agreement that would allow Google to continue operating its search services in China on its Google.cn website.
For Rebecca MacKinnon, the ball is now very much in the Chinese government’s court. She recommends Beijing leave the situation as it is:
The longer this high profile fracas goes on, the greater Chinese Internet users awareness will be about the lengths to which their government goes to blinker their knowledge of the world. That may inspire more people to start learning how to use circumvention tools for getting around the censorship.
As for China’s response, the People’s Daily reported the words of the official in charge of the Internet bureau under the State Council Information Office:
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 (…) This is totally wrong. We’re uncompromisingly opposed to the politicization of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conducts.
This post will be updated as more news flows in. For The Guardian’s liveblog, click here.