Chinese divided over Google move to close service

Posted 2:46 AM by crkota in Labels: , ,
The professor sounds upset, the tour guide says she doesn't care, and the taxi driver swears it's a coverup.

Google's decision this week to close its self-censored Internet search service in mainland China was provoking diverse reactions here Thursday.

"I'm very disappointed about Google's departure as I hoped they would stay," says Professor Stan Li, who runs biometrics and security research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The majority of Chinese Internet users responded more like tour guide Li Wenwen: "I never look at political or sensitive sites," says Li, 20,

China employs an array of censorship tools widely known here as the "Great Firewall." Perhaps the most effective method is the self-censorship that media organizations here, including Google until Monday, accept as the price of doing business.

Google stopped censoring its search results Monday because it said it was the target of hacking attacks originating from China. Google now redirects "" traffic to its Hong Kong-based site, which it does not censor. Hong Kong is a Chinese territory that is semiautonomous because of its past as a British colony.

On Thursday, some Google searches produced the same results whether from Beijing or Hong Kong. Among them is "Michael Jackson;" another is "Taiwan," which considers itself separate from China and that China considers its own.

Type "Falun Gong" in Chinese into Google's search engine from Beijing, and the Web browser suddenly becomes unresponsive. Make the same search from Hong Kong and you'll get many links to the spiritual movement banned by the Chinese government.

China maintained Thursday that Google is acting on orders from the U.S. government. Ding Yifan, a development researcher affiliated with China's Cabinet, said in the China Daily newspaper that Google's exit "is a deliberate plot," part of "Washington's political games with China."

The State Department has said it was not involved in Google's decision, though Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton championed Internet freedom in a recent speech. Congress has appropriated $35 million for grants to develop technology that helps circumvent Internet censorship.

Li, the professor, says the Chinese government puts too many restrictions on the Internet.

"I think they should reconsider and make some changes, like less restrictions," he says.

Some Chinese use proxy servers to get around censorship. Most just use state-sanctioned search engines.

"Baidu is quicker and more convenient," Li, the tour guide, says of China's largest search engine.

Flowers and tributes have been left by a stream of people outside Google's Beijing headquarters. Taxi driver Tian Liang will not be leaving a bouquet. "There's fierce competition in this area. I think that's why Google leaves China," says Tian, 40. "I don't like the foreign companies who use politics as an excuse for their commercial interests."

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