Google quits China?

Chinese newspaper reports that Google may announce an end to its controversial presence in the country as early as next week.

 Shanghai based China Business News
cites a source close to Google China as saying the company may pull
out of the country next month, and may announce details of its exit strategy
as soon as Monday.

We’ve
gotten news saying Google will leave China on 10 April 10, but this piece of news
has not yet been confirmed by the Google side,” the report quoted the
agent as saying.

 Google has already told employees
at its China offices that they could move to Google’s US headquarters, or other
offices across the Asia-Pacific region, should it decide to end its association
with China, but the company has declined to comment on these latest rumours.

In January, Google threatened to
pull out of China unless it was allowed to show unfiltered and uncensored
search results on its Google.cn search engine. Google also complained that
Chinese dissidents and human rights activists had their Gmail email accounts
hacked; subsequent investigations by US officials suggest that the cyber
attacks originated from a college with close links to the Chinese government.

The report in China Business News
suggests that while Google might close its Google.cn search engine, it may not
signal a complete end to its business and operations in the country. Experts
believe that were Google to exit the Chinese search market, they would be
unable to return at a later date, even if rules on web censorship changed. It
would mean that Google could miss out on establishing a presence in a country
with 384 million web users, leaving the way clear for local rival Baidu to
dominate the search market in China.

Google’s decision to launch a Chinese-language
search site in 2006 has long proved controversial. The company, whose mantra is
“Don’t be evil”, was accused by some of colluding with the Chinese
government by filtering and censoring access to websites that discussed banned
topics such as the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Free Tibet movement, and
outlawed religious group Falun Gong.

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