Google changes China access after Beijing objects

Google Inc. said Tuesday it will stop automatically rerouting users of its China search site to its Hong Kong site after Beijing said the company would lose its mainland Internet license if the tactic continued.

Google shut down its China-based search engine March 22 to avoid cooperating with the communist government’s Internet filtering and has rerouted users to its unfiltered site in Hong Kong. But Google said regulators told the company its Internet license, which expires Wednesday, would not be renewed if that continues.

“They made it clear to us that they did not think the redirect was acceptable,” said a Google spokeswoman, Jessica Powell. She declined to say what reasons the government gave for its objections.

On a company blog, Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond said Monday that Chinese authorities told the company “if we continue redirecting users our Internet Content Provider license will not be renewed.”

Google still operates a music download service and several other features on that are not affected by filtering regulations and Powell said it wants those services to continue.

Instead of automatically being switched to, visitors to now see a tab that says in Chinese “We have moved to” Users can click on that tab to move to the site in Hong Kong, which is a Chinese territory but has Western-style civil liberties and no Internet filtering.

A foreign ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said he had not seen Google’s announcement and could not comment on it. However, he added, “I would like to stress that the Chinese government encourages foreign enterprises to operate in China according to law.”

Google’s announcement in January that it no longer wished to comply with Chinese Internet filtering was an embarrassment for communist leaders, who want foreign companies to help develop China’s technology industries.

Google was the last major foreign Internet company to operate its own China-based service and people in the industry are watching to see whether communist authorities allow it to continue operating other services.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, also hopes to keep a research center in China, an advertising sales team that generates most of its revenue in the country and a fledgling mobile phone business.

Associated Press