Yesterday Google said it was shifting any searches done to Google.cn — the censored China site — to Google.com.hk, its Hong Kong site. (Just a reminder: Hong Kong enjoys civil liberties and freedoms even though it is part of China.)
An official from the State Council Information Office — the body that sets and oversees Internet rules — said the government “opposes politicizing commercial issues and express our dissatisfaction and anger at Google Inc’s unreasonable accusations and practices.”
As if forcing a company to enforce restrictive government rules and heavily censor common Internet searches is not politicizing a commercial relationship.
And to be clear, the rules of censorship are not the same as laws other countries have that require tech transfer or training when a company enters those countries.
China is obviously concerned about this.
At a foreign ministry press conference, spokesman Qin Gang said “The Google incident is the individual act of a commercial company. I don’t see that it would have any impact on China-U.S. relations, unless some people want to politicize it.”
Basically he is saying to the reporters at the press briefing and those of us who care about press/Internet freedom issues: “Don’t write about this unless you want to be responsible for a major split between China and the United States.”
Don’t think this is as far as China will go. I am betting the operators of the Great Firewall of China will be working to make sure Google searches from China will not be passed on to the Hong Kong site.
Besides making a stand against censorship, Google is also putting China’s immature fear of free access to information right up front for all to see. And that has to be embarrassing to the Chinese government that says it wants a mature relationships with the rest of the world.