Google has fine-tuned its online presence in China in an attempt to provide an unfiltered service that is acceptable to the Chinese government.
Rather than redirecting users to its Hong Kong search page directly, as it does at present, Google has set up a trial Chinese landing page which links to the Hong Kong search page, Google said in a blog post on Monday.
"...Instead of automatically redirecting all our users, we have started taking a small percentage of them to a landing page on Google.cn that 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," wrote Google chief legal officer David Drummond in the post. "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."
Drummond said that Chinese government officials had found Google's automatic redirection of users unacceptable, and that Google's licence to operate in the country was in danger of lapsing. The Internet Content Provider licence (ICP) needs to be renewed on 30 June, wrote Drummond.
"Without an ICP license, we can't operate a commercial website like Google.cn — so Google would effectively go dark in China," wrote Drummond.
A Google spokesperson on Tuesday declined to comment on the likelihood of the licence being renewed, saying that the paperwork was currently with the Chinese authorities.
"We have to wait to learn from the [Chinese] government," said the spokesperson. "We submitted our application this week, and we hope to hear from them soon."
Google in January said that it was no longer willing to censor its search results in China for terms that the Chinese government finds sensitive. The January announcement followed a targeted cyberattack on Google's systems.
The UK Chinese Embassy had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.