According to a Google update last night, the company will no longer be automatically redirecting search traffic in China from Google.cn to Google’s unfiltered Hong Kong page, Google.com.hk. Chinese officials were displeased, obviously, with Google’s past refusal to comply with censorship on google.cn, and the implication is that if the search engine had continued this tactic to provide uncensored results to Chinese internet users, their Internet Content Provider license would not be renewed on June 30.
Without an ICP license, a commercial site like Google.cn would not be allowed to operate in China. So what is the inevitable compromise?
Over the next few days, Google will be slowly taking Chinese internet users to a landing page on Google.cn that links to Google.com.hk, allowing them to web search unfiltered results, but also use local services such as text translation and music. Google Blog explains: “This approach ensures we stay true to our commitment not to censor our results on Google.cn and gives users access to all of our services from one page.”
Whether or not Google.com.hk is easily accessible, however, is another issue. I had an acquaintance in China access the Google.cn landing page, which indeed provided a link to the Hong Kong site:
Then, a search of “Tiananmen Square” was performed. This search did not work; ostensibly the Internet was running slowly, and the site ultimately did not load (note that this entire time, we were conversing via IM, so the internet connection had not in fact failed). Then, my acquaintance returned to Google.com.hk, and suddenly that page failed to work as well. It was about 10 minutes before it could load again:
Hurm. Today, Google will be resubmitting their ICP license renewal application based on this new direction. We’ll see if the Chinese government will be accommodating.
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