Google has shut down their Chinese search engine at Google.cn and is redirecting users to their Hong Kong servers at Google.com.hk in an effort to end censorship of Chinese search results. Rather than pulling out of the country entirely, Google is hoping to continue operating in China via their Hong Kong domain.
This is Google’s first move since announcing they were considering pulling out of China after a sophisticated attack on the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists earlier this year. Since then, Google have been holding discussions with the Chinese government, but these appear to have hit a roadblock with Google making this decision without official approval from the Chinese regulators.
Here’s part of what Google had to say via their lengthy blog post,
Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard. 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.
We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we’ve faced—it’s entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China. 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.
Google has said they will keep their music and maps services live in China and will also retain an R&D and sales team there. With the Chinese government yet to respond to Google’s actions, it is unclear whether this solution will work long term. I’ll be sure to update this post when we have some clarity.