June 29, 2010

Google Files For Chinese Business License Renewal

Google changed tack in China on Tuesday in order to address government complaints about its attempt to evade censorship, as it vied to get its business license renewed in the country.

The Internet search giant said it would stop automatically redirecting mainland Chinese users to an unfiltered site in Hong Kong, which is a process it started in March in response to censorship and cyberattacks it claims derived from China.

"It's clear from conversations we have had with Chinese government officials that they find the redirect unacceptable -- and that if we continue redirecting users, our Internet Content Provider license will not be renewed," Google's chief legal officer David Drummond said on the company's blog.

"Over the next few days we'll end the redirect entirely, taking all our Chinese users to our new landing page," he said, explaining that the new page on links to the Hong Kong site.

Beijing-based spokeswoman for Google, Marsha Wang, said the difference from the previous approach was that mainland users would have to manually click to a link to access the Hong Kong site.

Wang said Google would continue to offer unfiltered search results, but did not say specifically how the new approach would satisfy government requirements.

Drummond said that users would be able to "conduct web search or continue to use services like music and text translate, which we can provide locally without filtering".

He added that Google's ICP license comes up for renewal on Wednesday, and the Internet leader has re-submitted its application based on what it called its "new approach."

"This new approach is consistent with our commitment not to self-censor and, we believe, with local law," Drummond wrote.

Wang added: "We certainly hope to get the ICP renewal, but we are still waiting for the final decision."

The news comes just months after Google and Beijing faced conflict over the U.S. firm's effort to skirt an army of government censors who police the web for content considered inappropriate or unacceptable.

Google threatened to completely shut down its China-based server over what it said were China-based cyberattacks.  The firm said it would no longer be willing to abide by the so-called "Great Firewall of China."

It started re-routing users of to its unfiltered Hong Kong site just two months later.

Beijing reacted furiously, denying any role in the cyberattacks that Google said had targeted the Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents and saying it was "totally wrong" to stop filtering its Chinese-language search engine.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang reiterated that the company could not operate outside the law.

"A foreign Internet company operating in China should abide by Chinese laws and regulations," Qin told reporters.

Google said it plans to maintain its sales, research and development teams in China, which has the world's largest online population at 404 million.

Analysts say that its decision to shut down its Chinese-language sever is likely to stunt the development of the Internet in China and isolate local web users.


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