Turning its back on the largest and most repressed Internet market in the world, online giant Google this week shut down its search service in China, citing the country's intractable censorship laws. Temporarily at least, Google is redirecting traffic from the main Google.cn website to a sister site in Hong Kong. But China will almost certainly block Internet traffic to that domain. Thus, this is likely the beginning of the end.
"Earlier today we stopped censoring our search services—Google Search, Google News, and Google Images—on Google.cn," a Google statement issued at midnight reads. "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."
"The Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement," the statement continues. "We intend to continue R&D work in China and also to maintain a sales presence there."
China reacted with outrage, noting that Google's decision to exit the country "violated its written promise" and was "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," an official in the China cabinet said. In particular, China is officially outraged at the company's claims that China is somehow behind a recent spate of electronic attacks that originated in that country.
However, China did also note that the act of an "isolated" US company would have no impact on the country's relationship with the United States.
"The Google incident is just an individual action taken by one company," said a spokesperson for the Chinese ministry. "I can't see its impact on Sino-US relations unless someone wants to politicize it. I cannot see its impact on China's international image unless someone wants to make an issue of it. It is not China that has undermined its image but rather it is the Google company itself."
For now, traffic to the Hong Kong servers remains up, but that will likely be cut off by China soon. China also blocks all traffic to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (the latter of which is owned by Google) in that country. And they've insisted that any search engine that operates in the country must abide by China's censorship laws.