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Google Moves Its Chinese Search to Hong Kong

Nobody is Sure How Long the Dodge Will Last

Having failed to persuade Red China to let it operate in the country unfettered by self-censorship--as if the smart money figured would happen--Google has made good on its January 12 threat, and stopped censoring its Chinese site. Instead, it's redirecting the traffic to servers in Hong Kong, a former British protectorate where the Communists' grip, for the moment, isn't quite as strong under a sort of  "don't ask, don't tell" partition.

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Although Google claims it's legal, neither it nor anybody else is sure how long this dodge is going to last, or if it will be effective at all, given China's filters.

In making the announcement, Google's general counsel David Drummond admitted on a blog that the Chinese government "could at any time block access to our services."

But it looks like Google will try a modified version of hard ball and has set up a web page that's supposed to keep track of what the Communists are blocking. Maybe it can make the situation into a cause célèbre.

If history is any judge, that too will fail, along with Google's attempts to keep its ad sales operations and research center in China.

However, Russian-born Google founder Sergey Brin suggested to the New York Times that an accommodation had been reached despite the "lack of clarity." He also told the paper, "The story's not over yet."

At risk is Google's 35% share of Chinese search--which doesn't amount to much in the way of its revenues now  (maybe 1%-2%)--but as the biggest Internet market in the world, still promises to explode. China's native search engine Baidu is expected to the beneficiary of a Google pull out, and a lot of people feel Google's decision doesn't make much business sense (unless there's more to this than we know).

The site in Hong Kong that will handle the mainland traffic is offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, the written language that Red China has been pushing for a long time to advance literacy.

Hong Kong's usual traffic through Google.com.hk will still get search in traditional Chinese, which is the script used on the island as well as in Macau, Taiwan, and the old Chinese Diaspora.

Drummond says because of the added traffic service may be slow and some products may be "temporarily inaccessible as we switch everything over."

It would be pretty to think that Google will now do the same in all the other places in the world where news is censored. Google, however, blames its decision on cyber attacks launched from China on its infrastructure and on Gmail accounts used by Chinese dissidents. It also complains that that the Chinese persistently block web sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs and Blogger.

Google evidently aims to keep its maps and music search on the old China site.

China's pet press attacked Google today for "politicalizing itself" and not obeying local law, accusing it of  "exporting culture, value [sic] and ideas." (This is little enough payback for half the West eating lousy "Chinese" food once a week, one might think). It claimed that  "no country allows unrestricted flow on the Internet of pornographic, violent, gambling or superstitious content, or content on government subversion, ethnic separatism, religious extremism, racialism, terrorism and anti-foreign feelings."

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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