Google has implemented a bypass of the Chinese censorship filter, providing uncensored results into mainland China through a redirection via Hong Kong.
At the beginning of the year, Google revealed that they had been the target of a sophisticated cyber attack originating from China, notably on Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. This was the straw that broke the camels back for Google.
The American search giant had to comply to censorship requirements set by the Chinese government, in the same way as all other internet players (notably information related to political subjects) to get a foot into this market in 2006, although they have since decided that they would open negotiations with the government surrounding uncensored results being displayed on google.cn. These negotiations appeared to come to no avail.
A legal bypass of these measures In an unanticipated move, Google came through on their "threat" to stop censoring their search services (Google Search, Google News and Google Images) on google.cn. By doing so, it appears that they have now engaged in a game of pass the parcel. Internet users accessing google.cn will now be automatically redirected to google.com.hk, with these Google servers being hosted in Honk Kong.
"We are offering uncensored search results in simplified Chinese, especially designed for continental Chinese users, by passing our service via Hong Kong based servers", indicates Google who have pointed out that their move is legal, while also hoping that Beijing will respect their decision. Google doesn’t hold any illusions though, aware of the fact that Beijing can decide to block access to their services at any moment. It is possible to view which services are blocked at any time thanks to this dedicated page (services like YouTube have already been blocked).
According to the AFP, the efficiency of this measure has to be taken with a grain of salt. Some requests which come from China continue to be censored even when redirected to Hong Kong. The Chinese filter therefore appears to be designed in such a way that it is already capable of handling such a situation.
It goes without saying that Google’s decision has been coldly received by Beijing, although Google has stated that they will not be ending their activities in China in the field of Research and Development, while also maintaining their sales team. The size of such a team will nevertheless depend on Chinese users having access to the google.com.hk website.
According to a Chinese official speaking to a Chinese News Agency: "Google has violated their written promise made when entering the Chinese market, by ending filtering services on their search results and insinuating that China is behind the computer attacks".