Google (GOOG), the world's top search engine, could be soon banned from China as leaders of the world's most populous country decide whether to renew to tech giant's business license.
Chinese government officials have told Google that the company could lose the right to operate its search website in the country after Google redirected Chinese users to a website based in Hong Kong which, while part of China, enjoys fewer information restrictions.
In March, Google made good on its pledge to stop complying with Chinese web censorship rules that routinely expunge websites related to the Dalai Lama, Tibetan independence and the Tienanmen Square massacre from the Web.
China's authoritarian government censors the Internet through its "Great Firewall" -- a massive operation that trawls the Web for content the regime deems disruptive to national stability. Google bucked that censorship. Now Google may be booted from the Middle Kingdom altogether.
The Chinese government has been consistent in its message: follow the law or get out. Google tried a fancy maneuver by redirecting users from mainland China to the Hong Kong site. But that gambit was never sure to last. China could block Google -- and even its redirection from the Hong Kong site -- at any time. Instead of banning Google outright, officials appear to have simply told Google that it is still violating the law.
Google's solution: Instead of sending users directly to its Hong Kong site, the search engine now proposes to turn its main Google China page into a landing site which, just by clicking on the page, redirects users to the Hong Kong-based search engine. Chinese officials could rule on Google's status Wednesday.
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