Google’s China website (Google.cn) now redirects to the search engine’s Hong Kong site (Google.com.hk)

Google’s China website (http://www.google.cn) now redirects to the search engine’s Hong Kong site.

While earlier reports had Google’s China operations shutting down on April 10 (which could of course still be true) other reports had today as the day that Google would make an announcement, and this seems to be it. Google made this announcement/change in the middle of the night, so we do not have any official reaction yet from Chinese authorities.

Below is the official announcement by Google:

On January 12, we announced on this blog that Google and more than twenty other U.S. companies had been the victims of a sophisticated cyber attack originating from China, and that during our investigation into these attacks we had uncovered evidence to suggest that the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights activists connected with China were being routinely accessed by third parties, most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on their computers. We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered—combined with attempts over the last year to further limit free speech on the web in China including the persistent blocking of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs and Blogger—had led us to conclude that we could no longer continue censoring our results on Google.cn.

So 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. Due to the increased load on our Hong Kong servers and the complicated nature of these changes, users may see some slowdown in service or find some products temporarily inaccessible as we switch everything over.

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. We will therefore be carefully monitoring access issues, and have created this new web page, which we will update regularly each day, so that everyone can see which Google services are available in China.

In terms of Google’s wider business operations, we intend to continue R&D work in China and also to maintain a sales presence there, though the size of the sales team will obviously be partially dependent on the ability of mainland Chinese users to access Google.com.hk. Finally, we would like to make clear that all these decisions have been driven and implemented by our executives in the United States, and that none of our employees in China can, or should, be held responsible for them. Despite all the uncertainty and difficulties they have faced since we made our announcement in January, they have continued to focus on serving our Chinese users and customers. We are immensely proud of them.

A reader in China sends this report on web-search in the immediate aftermath of Google’s decision to stop filtering results. The Witopia mentioned below is a VPN service, which makes a computer inside China seem to be “outside” the country and therefore allows a user there to reach sites that would ordinarily be blocked by the “Great Firewall.” Details here. Everything that follows in this post is the reader’s report. [Formatting problems at the moment are preventing its display in the usual excerpt form.]

_____

“Google’s most recent step regarding its presence in China was interesting but the current quick reply from China appears to be even more so.  At last check, this is what I have observed with some quick testing of Google’s sites from within China and “outside” of China (through a Witopia connection).  Some findings (as of very early Tuesday morning in China):

From “outside” of China

From inside of China things are not so clean cut

  • As before, go to www.google.cn and you are redirected to www.google.com.hk
  • Innocuous searches in Chinese seem fine as before
  • However, do a more “interesting” search, such as 天安门广场事件  (Tiananmen Square Incident), and no page is able to load. A standard error message is displayed instead (in this case “The connection was reset…”)
  • The same results are also found at www.google.com.tw (the site for Taiwan), www.google.de (the site for Germany), etc.

So…

  • Who knows if these same results will hold tomorrow but…  this sure isn’t an accident.  China was clearly prepared in advance for Google’s recent actions.
  • China’s response is not limited to Google’s sites in “Greater China” and appears to be an actual extension of its censorship.
  • The World Expo opens in Shanghai in just over 40 days. Will be interesting to see if the Google events and those related complicate China’s desire to use the World Expo to present a positive image of China to the world (although projections seem to be that the vast majority of visitors will be Chinese).
Some additional points

  • The results from inside of China for Google’s Hong Kong site also hold true for Google’s sites in Spain & Israel (which should be noted have different domain name structures: www.google.es andwww.google.co.il).  China is being rather thorough.  When it comes to Google, China is breaking the mold of letting more eager Chinese internet users find holes in the wall.
  • While 天安门广场事件 (Tiananmen Square Incident) is “blocked”, 天安门广场 (Tiananmen Square) is not.
  • 天 安门广场事件 is not a blocked search on Microsoft Bing in China nor Baidu.  However, the search results do appear to be mostly missing any links, images, etc. that one would expect to be censored.”

Source: The Atlantic (March 22, 2010)

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posted on March 22, 2010
in Chinese Government, External Source, News, Search Marketing
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