Google to Stop Chinese Redirect to Hong Kong Site in Bid to Renew Content License

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Google (GOOG) will put the kibosh on automatically redirecting its Chinese users to its Hong Kong site in an effort to get its Internet content provider license renewed before it expires on Wednesday, the company said in a blog post late Monday night.

Instead, the company says it has begun offering a "small percentage" of its Google.cn site visitors the ability to click a link on the "landing page," which then sends them to the uncensored Hong Kong site, Google.com.hk. Over the next few days, the company said it will end the automatic redirect entirely and send all Google.cn users to the mainland China site, with the link to google.hk a click away.

But whether Chinese authorities will be satisfied with Google's workaround has yet to be seen and the deadline for its content renewal license is literally a breath away.

Google Could "Go Dark in China"

Here's what David Drummond, Google's senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer, had to say about what's at stake:

We currently automatically redirect everyone using Google.cn to Google.com.hk, our Hong Kong search engine. This redirect, which offers unfiltered search in simplified Chinese, has been working well for our users and for Google. However, it's clear from conversations we have had with Chinese government officials that they find the redirect unacceptable -- and that if we continue redirecting users our Internet Content Provider license will not be renewed (it's up for renewal on June 30). Without an ICP license, we can't operate a commercial website like Google.cn -- so Google would effectively go dark in China.

Google's revision to its Chinese site marks the second since its high-profile battle with the Chinese government over censorship issues, which in March led to the revamping of the site so that visitors to Google.cn were automatically redirected to its uncensored Hong Kong search site, Google.com.hk. The main difference with the latest revision is that Google.cn users will get to the Hong Kong site once they enter a search term in the box, rather than automatically after typing in the Google.cn website address.

Following the Letter of the Law

Under this latest revision, Google users in China will not only receive access to search through the Hong Kong site, but will also receive uncensored Google.cn services, such as music and text translation, directly off of the Chinese site.

Drummond notes in his blog: "This approach ensures we stay true to our commitment not to censor our results on Google.cn and gives users access to all of our services from one page."

Basically, Google is trying to follow the proverbial letter of the law, while the Chinese government wants it to follow the spirit of the law. Google is at a distinct disadvantage because its bartering chips are few and far between. Google can cite the number of Chinese workers who are pulling a paycheck from the search giant, but China itself has grown so much as an economic force that it's now looking to the U.S. to hire workers. For example, Google's competitor, China-based Baidu, is reportedly coming to a U.S. job fair to do just that later next month, according to a Reuters report.

Google says it re-submitted its Internet content provider license with its revised approach to its Google.cn site on Monday. It noted it remains hopeful the Chinese government will accept its revamped plans and renew its license.



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