Google Directs Chinese Users to Hong Kong Site

Google has begun directing users of its engine in mainland China to its Hong Kong-based service, as it threatened to following attacks to its systems in China in December.

In a blog post published this afternoon, David Drummond, Google’s SVP, corporate development and chief legal officer said, “earlier today we stopped censoring our search services – Google Search, Google News, and Google Images – on Users visiting are now being redirected to where we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in Mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong.”

Chinese authorities are now likely to limit access to the Hong Kong engine from within the mainland, so Google itself has published a page detailing which of its services are currently blocked, “so that everyone can see which Google services are available in China.”

Drummond added that Google intends to continue research and development work in China, and to maintain a sales presence there. He points out, however, that the size of that sales staff “will obviously be partially dependent on the ability of mainland Chinese users to access”

The search giant first threatened to close its Chinese search product in January, following what it described as “a highly sophisticated and targeted attack” on its systems originating from within China. The company said the attacks, which took place in December, targeted a number of Gmail accounts belonging to Chinese human rights activists in China, the U.S., and Europe.

The company then threatened to withdraw from the market entirely if local authorities did not allow it to offer its search service and results uncensored. Since launching there in 2006, Google has been required by Chinese law to filter search results, specifically in relation to alleged human rights abuses, and events such as the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. Searches for those events currently return non-censored results on the Hong Kong engine.

Last week, Google received a letter signed by 27 of its Chinese ad partners, claiming their businesses may fail if the company closed its operations there. However, reports suggested the correspondence could be fake, as some signatory companies were unaware of its existence. I

n a statement e-mailed to ClickZ News, a Google spokesperson said, “we received the letter and we’re reviewing it,” but added, “I’m not able to comment on the authenticity of the letter.” When asked about the letter today, the spokesperson said the company was still “reviewing it.”

You can follow Jack Marshall on Twitter at @JackMarshall .

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