Chinese Spies Hack Gmail Accounts: Google Gets Angry
10:05am UK, Wednesday January 13, 2010
Peter Sharp, China correspondent
Google has threatened to pull its operation out of China, claiming cyber spies have penetrated the system.
The internet giant said "highly sophisticated" attacks had been launched to hack into e-mail accounts of human rights activists in China and around the world.
"These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered - combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web - have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China," Google chief legal officer David Drummond said in a blog post.
Chinese authorities said they were "seeking more information on Google's statement that it could quit China", the official Xinhua news agency said, citing a government official.
The unnamed official from China's State Council Information Office also said: "It is still hard to say whether Google will quit China or not. Nobody knows."
Google's threat came after it announced it would no longer censor search results in China.
Searches on google.cn for the iconic photo of a man standing in front of a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989 found the image immediately, as well as results for other sensitive topics such as the Dalai Lama and the banned Falungong spiritual group.
No company should be forced to operate under government threat to its core values or to the rights and safety of its users.
Leslie Harris, of the Centre for Democracy & Technology
Google said 20 other companies had been targeted including media, finance, chemical and technology sites.
"Google has taken a bold and difficult step for internet freedom in support of fundamental human rights," said Leslie Harris, president of the US-based Centre for Democracy & Technology.
"No company should be forced to operate under government threat to its core values or to the rights and safety of its users."
At Google's offices in Beijing, human rights activists laid a bouquet of red roses and white lilies in support of the company.
"We want to express outrage, but not at Google. Coming here is a type of support for Google," said IT worker Zhao Gang.
"Google faces very strict and adverse conditions in China. Something we knew in our hearts is now out in the open. I believe it's a watershed moment for the internet in China this year."
Google stressed that the decision to review its controversial operations in China had been taken by the company's US executives and not by staff in China.