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Chinese media say Google is politicizing dispute

Sun, 03/21/2010 - 4:30am
GILLIAN WONG - Associated Press Writer - Associated Press

State media lashed out at Google over the weekend with editorials accusing the search giant of helping forces abroad attack China and its laws, while calling efforts to pressure the country over its Internet censorship "ridiculous."

The critical editorials and op-ed columns came amid signs Google Inc. might be moving toward closing its China site after saying in January it would no longer cooperate with Beijing's Internet censorship.

A commentary carried by the official Xinhua News Agency accused Google of harboring a political agenda and said the company should understand that it has to comply with the laws of countries where it does business.

"Whether (Google) leaves or not, the Chinese government will keep its Internet regulation principles unchanged. One company's ambition to change China's Internet rules and legal system will only prove to be ridiculous," the commentary said.

Beijing encourages Internet use for education and business but tries to block access to material deemed subversive or pornographic, including Web sites abroad run by human rights and pro-democracy activists. Google is demanding that the government tear down the so-called "Great Firewall" that seeks to keep China's citizens from finding politically sensitive information and images.

Chinese news reports say Google is on the verge of making good on a threat to shutter its China site, Google.cn, because Beijing forces the Internet giant to censor search results.

Google says it is in talks with Beijing after announcing Jan. 12 that its e-mail service had been hacked from inside China and that it no longer wants to comply with Beijing's extensive Web controls. But Chinese officials have insisted the company must obey Chinese law, which appears to leave few options other than closing Google.cn, which has about 35 percent of China's search market.

The China Daily said in an editorial Saturday that Google will lose its credibility with the world's largest Internet market — a population of nearly 400 million users — if it links its departure from the country to political issues.

"Chinese netizens did not expect the Google issue to snowball into a political minefield and become a tool in the hands of vested interests abroad to attack China under the pretext of Internet freedom," the editorial said.

The newspaper carried an opinion piece that said it was "ridiculous and arrogant" for an American company to try to change Chinese laws and suggested that Google was acting in Washington's interests.

"Google's relations with the U.S. government cannot be deeper," the article said. "How can people believe that the company's search results are without any bias when it lacks independence as well as business ethics?"

Contacted by phone for comment, Google spokeswoman Jessica Powell stressed the company acted independently in making its Jan. 12 announcement. "The decision to go public about the attacks and the decision to review our business in China was entirely Google's and Google's alone," she said.

Since Google's announcement, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has criticized the censorship of cyberspace by China and others. Beijing sharply rebuked the U.S. for what it called "information imperialism" and said Clinton's remarks damaged bilateral relations.

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