Google's decision to stop censoring search results in China was put into practice yesterday, as all traffic coming to Google.cn was redirected to Google.com.hk, the company's Hong Kong search engine from where it could serve uncensored results. The move wasn't going to go unnoticed or unpunished and the Chinese government is already reacting, though not as decisively as it might have.
Google.com.hk is now being filtered just like any other website outside mainland China. This started very early after Google began to redirect traffic, and it basically means that Chinese users are not better off and, in fact, they may get a worse experience as some queries are blocked rather bluntly. But for Google, things are already beginning to look bad in the country.
It is widely reported that China Mobile, the country's largest mobile carrier, will drop Google as the default search engine on its mobile homepage, despite having been one of Google's early partners in the country. China Unicom, the second largest carrier, is also said to be dropping or delaying plans to introduce a Google Android-based mobile phone.
China is also ramping up the anti-Google and anti-US propaganda. The overseas edition of People’s Daily, the Communist Party's main newspaper, again accuses Google of having ties with US spy agencies and a political agenda. At the same time, Xinhua, the official news agency of the Chinese government, is saying that the Google matter is strictly a commercial one and should not affect Sino-American relations.
And, then, we have Google cofounder Sergey Brin's interview with The Guardian, in which he urges other companies and governments, including the US one, obviously, to put pressure on China to drop Internet censorship. There is also the issue of whether offering uncensored results from Hong Kong is legal.
While the region operates under a special status, it is still a part of China. It looks like even Google isn't sure about the legality of the move. China certainly doesn't like it, but, since it hasn't acted so far, it may mean that it is willing to tolerate this approach. If this is the case, things have pretty much settled in the Google - China situation and there shouldn't be too many things changing for quite a while from now.