License expiration, site redirect could cause Google China to go dark

Google said a redirect from Google.cn to Google.hk will come to an end soon, a gesture to Chinese officials who will rule on a licensing renewal that could cause the site to go dark if not renewed.

The future of the Google site in mainland China is more uncertain now than ever before.

Currently, visitors to Google.cn are redirected to Google.hk, the company's Hong Kong site. That shift came after Google threatened to pull the plug on censoring filters, following a reported attack on Google that occurred late last year.

It's been a while since we've heard anything about the redirect to Google.hk, which offers unfiltered search in simplified Chinese. But that doesn't mean there hasn't been some chatter. In a blog post posted late last night, Google said that it's become clear, based on conversations with Chinese government officials, that the redirect is not acceptable to government officials.

And that brings us to action that could happen later this week. The company's Internet Content Provider license expires on June 30 - and the Chinese government has reportedly suggested that, if the redirect to Google.hk continues, that license will not be renewed.

Basically, that would end Google's presence in China.

Google doesn't want that - and plans to end the redirect in the next couple of days. But that doesn't mean it's reversed its position on China. In its post, the company said:

... instead of automatically redirecting all our users, we have started taking a small percentage of them to a landing page on Google.cnthat links to Google.com.hk—where users can conduct web search or continue to use Google.cn services like music and text translate, which we can provide locally without filtering. This approach ensures we stay true to our commitment not to censor our results on Google.cn and gives users access to all of our services from one page.

Will that fly with Chinese officials. We'll know soon enough - Google has resubmitted its ICP license application based on the new landing page approach. But it's unclear whether that's enough for Chinese officials to allow Google to continue operations there.

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