China clamping down on Google?

With Google's services increasingly inaccessible from China, the search firm may be forced to pull out of the country altogether

The Chinese government has reportedly blocked Google's international sites, leaving only the search giant's censored services accessible to users in the country.

According to a statement posted on Tuesday on the Web site of press freedom activist group Reporters without Borders, Internet users in many major Chinese cities have had difficulty accessing last week.

The search engine's international domain was said to be inaccessible throughout China on 31 May, although the self-censored version was unaffected. Reporters without Borders added that the blocking was gradually extended to Google News and Google Mail. The lobby group said it had "expected" to be gradually sidelined after the censored version was introduced in January.

When contacted via e-mail, a Google spokesperson told ZDNet Asia: "We have heard reports of users in China experiencing problems accessing We are investigating this matter." He declined to comment further.

U.S. news agency CNN reported on Wednesday that Google's co-founder Sergey Brin admitted that the search company had compromised its principles when it agreed to censorship demands from the Chinese government.

Brin also hinted that Google may revert to a "principled approach" and that pulling out of China could be an option. He, however, qualified that Google's immediate plan is to improve the censored search service. He said that nearly all the company's users in China prefer the site's uncensored service.

Brin's comments contrast with that made by rival Yahoo's co-founder Jerry Yang in March, when he said it was better to cooperate with the authorities and operate in China, than not be there at all. Yahoo had come under fire for cooperating with the Chinese government to censor information online.


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