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China warns Google over uncensored search threat

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China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology has warned Google that if it stops censoring search results in the country, it will "have to bear the consequences".

In mid-January, after alleged Chinese hackers pilfered unspecified intellectual property from its internal systems, Google announced it had made the decision to "no longer" censor search results in China, saying that it would spend "the next few weeks" in talks with the government to determine "the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all".

At a press conference in Beijing on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reports, Minister of Industry and Information Technology Li Yizhong was asked how the government would respond if Google followed through on its apparent pledge to stop censoring results. "I hope Google can respect Chinese rules and regulations," he said.

"If you insist on taking this action that violates Chinese laws, I repeat: you are unfriendly and irresponsible, and you yourself will have to bear the consequences."

Yizhong also said that his Ministry is only one of the government arms handling the Google situation and that it's difficult for him to comment on the government's talks with the company. But he did say that the web giant is welcome to stay in the country if it adheres to local law.

Citing "people familiar with the matter," The WSJ said that Google "could" stop censoring results "within weeks" but that it is unlikely to leave the country. One Journal source said that Google may make separate arrangements with various Chinese ministries that will allow it to somehow stop censoring results while still maintaining its operation in a "patchwork arrangement".

With its January 12 blog post, Google said: "We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China." That would appear to leave open the possibility of shutting down the search engine while maintaining other Chinese services, but it also allows for its continual operation.

In mid-February, about a month after Google's blog post, company co-founder Sergey Brin told The New York Times that any change in the situation may take "a year or two" rather than "a few weeks".

We're now two months on from the blog post. Earlier this week, Google CEO said that "something will happen soon" with the company's government talks, though he reiterated that there was "no timetable" for the discussions.

In the meantime, Google continues to censor search results at Google.cn. But yesterday, the company confirmed with The Reg that it is "postponing" the use Google apps - including search - on Android phones from Chinese carriers. ®

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