Google has carried out its pledge to end censorship of its search engine results in China, admitting that the decision could result in the service being blocked altogether in the country.
As of now, the company is re-routing all search enquiries at Google.cn to the uncensored Google.com.hk, another Chinese language version of the website hosted on servers in Hong Kong.
The search engine giant had been negotiating with authorities in China since January, when Google claimed that a co-ordinated cyberattack had been launched from within China in order to access Google-hosted email accounts belonging to human rights activists.
"We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement," wrote David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, in a company blog post. "We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services."
Drummond added that the company would be retaining a research and development and sales presence in China, although the size of this workforce will depend on the availability of access to Google.com.hk within the Chinese mainland.
Chinese authorities require all local Internet companies to limit access to material that is considered contentious in the country, such as information on the Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989 and the Tibetan independence movement.
Google’s share in the Chinese search engine market stands at around 36%, according to web research firm Analysys, a distant second to local player Baidu with 58%. According to a survey published by the American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China this week, 57% of IT businesses based in China believe that the Communist Party’s innovation policies are designed to favour indigenous enterprises, with 37% of US IT firms reporting that they are losing sales as a result.