Google hits exit key (4)

08:49, March 24, 2010      

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In a Xinhua report, a State Council official said the government talked to Google twice to try to resolve the standoff and suggested China's laws requiring websites to censor themselves is non-negotiable.

"We gave patient and meticulous explanations to the questions Google raised ... telling it we would still welcome its operation and development in China if it was willing to abide by Chinese laws, while it would be its own affair if it was determined to withdraw its service," the official was quote as saying. "Foreign companies must abide by Chinese laws and regulations when they operate in China."

China is open to foreign investment, with more than 480 of world's top 500 companies already in the domestic market, according to a Xinhua editorial published on Tuesday. "There's no reason to say China's investment environment is getting worse when Google suddenly wanted to break its commitment," it said.

Rules on censorship

As part of efforts to tighten Internet control last year, the nation's Web watchdog accused Google of spreading obscene and violence material that threatened the moral fiber of China's youth. The move was followed in September by the departure of the company's China CEO, Lee Kai-fu, who quit the company to start his own venture. Google then threatened on Jan 12 to pull out of China if it could not offer an uncensored version of its portal.

However, one respected Beijing-based communication expert, who did not want to be identified talking about the Google situation, told China Daily that the censorship argument is just an excuse.

"The most important reason is the new leadership," he said. "After Lee Kai-fu resigned, (Google bosses) thought it was hopeless to catch Baidu up and seriously feared the company was heading for a fiasco. The new leadership has politically hijacked the whole Google company to save themselves from embarrassment."

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