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Asia

China renews Google's licence

A spokesperson for Google in China has said the government has accepted the company's application to renew its internet content provider licence. It expired on June 30.

A Chinese flag flutters near the Google logo on top of Google's China headquarters in Beijing

A Chinese flag flutters near the Google logo on top of Google's China headquarters in Beijing

Renewal had been in doubt following a row between Google and the Chinese authorities. After complaining that its e-mail service had been hacked in China, Google in January threatened to pull out of China completely and announced it would not continue censoring search results, as required under Chinese regulations. From March onwards, the company automatically redirected the users of its Chinese page google.cn to the uncensored Chinese-language Google page based in Hong Kong (google.com.hk).

Google's operations have faced other problems in China. Its video sharing platform YouTube is banned there, for example. But as China is a huge and rapidly growing internet market, Google didn't want to be completely shut out from it either.

Google's compromise

Retaining an internet content provider's licence in China therefore became crucial. In the course of negotiations about the extension, Google agreed to implement a compromise: Visitors to google.cn are no longer automatically redirected to the Hong Kong page, but a link to google.com.hk is displayed in big letters immediately underneath the search window.

Many websites are blocked by the government in China

Many websites are blocked by the government in China

The whole fight is more about taking a stance than about making a real difference: Chinese users will still have an incentive to use the uncensored Hong Kong-based search engine. On the other hand, even search results that Chinese users find via Google Hong Kong are not accessible to them if the sites are blocked by the Chinese authorities. The links simply won't open.

Facebook is a security threat: report

Meanwhile, a top Chinese think tank has claimed that social networking sites like Facebook pose a threat to national security. In its annual report on the development of new media in China, the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said Western countries including the US were using these websites to stir up political unrest in China. The report mentioned - by way of example - last year's rioting in the northwestern Xinjiang region and claimed that overseas separatist groups had used Facebook as a rallying point.

tb/AFP/AP/dpa/Reuters
Editor: Grahame Lucas

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