The Google-China spat has been out of the headlines for a while, but Google is now faced with the possibility that it could lose its Internet operating license for China. In response, the company has said it will cease the automatic redirect of mainland users to its site in Hong Kong.
Instead, according to reports, users in China will have to click a tab on Google’s China site if they decide they want to go to the Hong Kong page, where they can receive unfiltered search results.
The decision to redirect users to the Hong Kong site came in January after the company said that it would no longer follow the Chinese government’s censorship rules, a dispute that was brought to a head after the company said it had been at the receiving end of a number of sophisticated cyber attacks originating in China (the Chinese government has denied it had anything to do with the attacks).
Google’s ICP license doesn’t run out until 2012, but it comes up for renewal today. The timeframe for decision is unclear, but some media outlets have speculated a decision could also be made today.
According to a statement posted on Google’s blog by David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer:
‘Over the next few days we’ll end the redirect entirely, taking all our Chinese users to our new landing page—and today we re-submitted our ICP license renewal application based on this approach.
‘As a company we aspire to make information available to users everywhere, including China. It’s why we have worked so hard to keep Google.cn alive, as well as to continue our research and development work in China. This new approach is consistent with our commitment not to self censor and, we believe, with local law. We are therefore hopeful that our license will be renewed on this basis so we can continue to offer our Chinese users services via Google.cn.’
Will China respond in kind?