Google flips the switch in China: search no longer censored
As of 3:03 p.m. Eastern time today, Google has officially shut down Google.cn search operations, ending the online loans of information that Google and China had worked out. Google and China have been in a long-standing debate over the censoring of search results — a debate that has gotten especially heated since Jan. 12. Today, on its official blog, Google announced that had cut the cord to Google.cn and would be redirecting all searches in China to Google.com.hk, the Hong Kong portal for the search engine.
Availability of Google in China
Along with redirecting the Google.cn portal to Google.com.hk, Google also launched an “Apps Status Dashboard” report on China. According to that dashboard, as of 2:15 p.m. Pacific time today, Google users in China are able to access the web and image search functions freely, without censorship. News, advertisements, and Gmail also appear to be freely accessible. However, YouTube, Google Sites, and Blogger are completely blocked, while Google Groups, Picasa, and Google Docs have a small loan from the government – they are only partially blocked.
China’s unique relationship with Hong Kong
Google’s decision to redirect Google.cn to Google.com.hk is a decision made partially possible by the unique relationship of mainland China with Hong Kong. Google has long had a non-censored presence in Hong Kong, even though it is a “special administrative region” of the Republic of China. Hong Kong is technically Chinese, though it is operated as a multi-party democratic republic, rather than under the single-party system of China. Because Hong Kong is financially and politically separate from China, Google has been able to offer a full suite of web services there for many years.
How China’s government will react to Google
Senior Vice President David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, stated today that “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.” Most industry and political watchers do expect China to begin censoring search results from Google.com.hk any day. The Chinese government has a long history of censorship, and China’s “Great Firewall” is surprisingly effective at censoring sections of the internet that the Chinese government determines should not be allowed.