Google's China License Is Still Stuck in Limbo

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Six days after the deadline passed to apply for a renewal of its China Internet business license, Google (GOOG) had yet to get an answer from the government, the search giant said Monday.

"We are still waiting to hear from the government about the license renewal," a Google spokesperson told DailyFinance by email. Google's existing five-year license is good until 2012, but the company must renew annually.

There was some confusion after new text and links appeared on Google.cn, most notably a link reading: "ICP Certificate B2-20070004." But that number simply refers to Google's existing ICP (Internet content provider) license. The government hasn't said if it will renew the license. Google today also added links to a music service and a translation tool that don't run afoul of Chinese law.

An Added Step for Chinese Users

In March, Google made good on its pledge to stop complying with Chinese Web censorship rules. After Google redirected Chinese users to a website based in Hong Kong, which, while part of China, enjoys fewer information restrictions, Chinese officials told Google that the company could lose the right to operate its search site in the country.

Hoping to win renewal of its Internet business license, Google said last week that instead of automatically redirecting Mainland users to its Hong Kong-based site, the company would turn its main China page into a landing site that links users to the Hong Kong search engine. So, rather than simply automatically redirecting users to the Hong Kong site, Google added a step requiring users to actually click through to the site.

Last Wednesday, Google reported that the China-based searches using the company's "Suggest" tool, which recommends common queries, had been partially blocked.

The Chinese government could issue a decision on the license renewal as early as Tuesday.
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