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Google '99.9%' certain to pull China search plug

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Google is now "99.9 per cent" certain it will shut down its Chinese search engine, according to a report citing "a person familiar with the company's thinking".

The Financial Times reports that the web giant has drawn up detailed plans for closing Google.cn, saying the company's discussions with Chinese authorities reached an impasse. The news came hours after a Chinese minister warned Google that it would "have to bear the consequences" if it stopped censoring results on Google.cn.

On January 12, after alleged Chinese hackers pilfered some sort of intellectual property from the company, Google announced it had decided to "no longer" censor search results in China, saying 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". As it discusses the issue with multiple Chinese ministries, the company continues to censor results in accordance with local law, but it has postponed the release of two Google-branded Android phones in China and suspended the use of Google mobile apps on all Android handsets from Chinese carriers.

Echoing comments Eric Schmidt made the first week in March, The FT says that a decision on the matter could come soon, but the pink 'un also says the web giant may "take some time" to actually follow through with the closure and find ways of ensuring that local employees are protected from action by the government.

According to The FT's sources, Google wants to continue running its other operations in the country, but apparently, some company execs feel that may not be possible, fearing government reprisals for the closure of Google.cn.

With its January 12 blog post, Google seemed to indicate it may leave the country entirely. "We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China," the post read. But at one point, CEO Eric Schmidt told The FT: "It’s very important to know we are not pulling out of China...We have a good business in China. This is about the censorship rules, not anything else.” ®

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