A Chinese official has blasted Google's decision to offer unfiltered Web content to its citizens on the mainland, calling the move "totally wrong" and saying it violates Google's written agreement to abide by Chinese laws.
The harsh words are the first official reaction to Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) announcement yesterday that it would redirect traffic from Google.cn to its Hong Kong site, Google.com.hk, which is exempt from China's Internet filtering restrictions.
That decision came two months after Google first threatened to pull up stakes in China if the government didn't relax its censorship requirements. At the time, Google dropped word that it had been subject to a series of cyber attacks targeting the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights advocates. Google said it had traced the attacks to China, a charge that Chinese authorities have vigorously denied.
"Google has violated its written promise it made when entering the Chinese market by stopping filtering its searching service and blaming China in insinuation for alleged hacker attacks," an unnamed Chinese official told the state news service Xinhua.
"This is totally wrong. We're uncompromisingly opposed to the politicization of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conducts," the official said.
Google, the world's largest Internet company, caught the attention of senior U.S. officials and lawmakers with its revelations, and many have called on other tech firms to adopt firmer approaches in their dealings with repressive governments.
But the worldwide news coverage of Google's standoff with China has brought some unwelcome attention to that country's Internet policies, which officials have repeatedly defended in state media. Chinese news coverage of the affair has also expressed a rising criticism of Google for serving as a proxy for U.S. government officials, a view that invites broader economic and diplomatic concerns about the relations souring between the two countries.
A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry sought to tamp down those fears at a press conference in Beijing yesterday, saying they were "overstating the issue," Xinhua reported.
"What China is striving to prevent on the Internet is the flow of information that would pose a danger to national security and the interests of the society and the public," Qin Gang said. "Any foreign company operating in China must abide by Chinese laws and regulations."
Google said it planned to keep its research and sales operations open in mainland China, though it warned it might reconsider its position if Chinese authorities began blocking access to the Hong Kong traffic.