Google quits China, moves site to Hong Kong

Posted Mar 22, 2010 by Paul Wallis
The threat is now reality- to a point. Google has packed its bags, stopped censoring searches, and redirected mainland users to Hong Kong, which operates under China’s two systems laws.
Hongkong by night
Hongkong by night
The Chinese aren’t happy. Xinhua has a very direct article, accusing Google of breaking a written promise.
China says Google has been “totally wrong” with the decision to stop censoring. China’s Information Office has also stated that Google’s “claim” that it was attacked by hackers was the start of the problems between Google and China.
The move hasn’t been a triumph of communications on either side. According to Google, they checked to make sure the redirection to Hong Kong was OK, and China’s official regulators already knew about it.
Google isn’t actually leaving China. It’s repositioning its operations, according to company sources, and retaining sales and research staff in the country.
The censorship issue, naturally, is the centerpiece of the problem. Google may have spun its position slightly when saying it thought the move was OK. There was no actual comment on the “no censorship” situation which has drawn so much fire from the Chinese officials.
This is an example of the commentary to date, quoted in The New York Times:
“Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on has been hard,” David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, wrote in the blog post. “The Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a nonnegotiable legal requirement.”
From this unequivocal position, apparently, is derived the general news that Google has “stopped censoring” and China’s furious reaction. It’s not clear how Google has defined its no-censorship in practice, either, but something must have set of the official meltdown.
Google is actually the number two search engine in China, behind the local giant, Baidu. There’s a few mentions recently that Google wouldn’t suffer too much financially by pulling out of China, but it’s looking as if they’re trying at least one Plan B, on the basis of the move to the Hong Kong operation.