Google hits exit key

08:43, March 24, 2010      

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Passengers ride in a double-decker bus painted with a Google advertisement in Beijing on Tuesday. REUTERS / Christina Hu

Search engine's departure from the Chinese mainland opens door to rivals. Wang Xing and Zhang Haizhou in Beijing, and Guo Jiaxue in Hong Kong report.

Google Inc took a major step in its row with the Chinese government on Tuesday by redirecting traffic from its Beijing-based search engine to its service in Hong Kong.

The move effectively means the company no longer needs to filter its search results, as required by Chinese law.

Although Google's exit is good news for its rivals, chiefly Baidu, Sogou and up-and-comer Tencent, many experts said it is a "lose-lose situation" for both China and the US-based company.

The initial reaction from the authorities came via an unnamed State Council information official who told Xinhua News Agency that Google had "violated its written promise it made when entering the Chinese market (in 2006) by stopping filtering its search service and blaming China, in insinuation, for alleged hacker attacks".

"This is totally wrong. We're uncompromisingly opposed to the politicization of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conduct," the official said.

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