Ng Han Guan/AP
A worker cleans the logo at the Google China headquarters Monday in Beijing.
A worker cleans the logo at the Google China headquarters Monday in Beijing. Ng Han Guan/AP
Some Chinese netizens are saluting Google's decision to move its China-based search service to Hong Kong and lift censorship in the country, but others aren't so sure.
"This is just a gesture for Google to still have the market and not lose face," said Deng Jianguo, an associate professor researching new media at Fudan University.
Deng has little sympathy for Google, which he says should have followed Chinese law.
"I think Google has overestimated its importance to Chinese netizens here," he said. "As a researcher and an English-speaking person, I use Google English a lot. But for most Chinese netizens, they don't care about Google Chinese version."
Internet users in China called it G-Day, the moment of reckoning when Google finally turned words into action. In the early hours of Tuesday, Google announced it was shutting its Chinese Web site and rerouting searches to Hong Kong. The company has around 36 percent of the Chinese search engine market, far behind market leader Baidu. China's official response was angry.
"Google has violated the written promise it made on entering the Chinese market," said a statement on the noon news. "It is totally wrong in halting the filtering of its search provider and in making aspersions and accusations toward China about hacking attacks."
Under the new arrangement, visitors to Google's Chinese-language search engine are redirected to its Hong Kong site. Bust sensitive searches — such as "Tiananmen student movement" — prompt the message, "The Web page cannot be displayed," because filters that stop users from viewing those sites are still in place.
Meanwhile, psychology student Katherine Liu says academics depend on Google.
"If Google moves to Hong Kong, but it's still available, it will not affect our daily lives," Liu said. "But if we have difficulties in connecting it, it will have great effect on our daily lives."
The unanswered question is what — if anything — happens next. At the moment, Google's research and development center is still in China, and the Gmail service is still operating, as is a free music download service Google runs with a Chinese partner. It's not yet clear whether these will continue to operate or if these too may end up being shuttered as the cost of Google's stand against Chinese censorship.