A few dozen supporters of Google, placards in hand, made their way to the Beijing office yesterday in support of the American giant, who for the first time, is standing up to the Chinese government.
The movement was sparked by a press release entitled "A new approach to China", posted on the official Google blog on Tuesday. The California company explained that due to highly sophisticated cyber attacks on Gmail registered human rights activists, the search engine was planning on pulling out of the country. It also expressed dislike for the state-imposed censorship it was obliged to follow.
The Chinese Minister of Industry and Information Technology stands defiant against the threat. He publicly stated that information companies must accept the "law of the land", meaning that Google could soon be leaving the country - and market - of 338 million web users.
Google fans in the country are beside themselves with worry. One web user posted the following comment under the name "Broken Mouse": "iGoogle is my home page, Google Reader is my daily news, Google Docs is my text editor and Google Voice is my principal communication tool... How can I survive without Google?", and another called, "Root", added: "[Major Chinese search engine] Baidu is a puppet, while Google shines".
In front of the Beijing HQ in Beijing
“Either you follow the rules, or you get lost, as proved by Google”
Li Yuanchun is a computer salesman from Beijing.
This story really doesn't interest me because it mainly has to do with money and pride. Of course, like all Chinese people; I know we don't have access to all information, but it also seems to me that Google is having trouble surviving on the Chinese market. Maybe they've found a way of leaving without losing face.
The government knows that China is the biggest market in the world; the authorities have the advantage here and they will continue to require both local and foreign companies to obey the law. Either you follow the rules, or you get lost, as proved by Google.
Personally I use Baidu, probably because it was the site I used when I began using the net. But many of my friends prefer Google. I think if Google leaves China however, apart from some disappointed web users, there won't be any difference in terms of freedom in China. I don't know why Google thought it could change anything anyway, we all know the government hides what it wants and looks into people's email accounts. It will be the same if Google stays or goes.
I have to say that I laughed when I saw people leaving flowers outside the Google office. It looked like they were mourning a celebrity, but really it's just because they'll have to change their habits... "
“To cut off the internet in these times, is to cut off the country”
Charlie Li (not his real name) is a journalist for a magazine in Beijing.
I think that the government is going to fold. You could say that China is as isolated as it was during the Qing Dynasty, because to cut off the internet in these times, is to cut off the country.
It's hard to say whether Google's decision is a good one or not. In the short term, it's a loss for Chinese web users. Google has principles [it censures less] that Baidu doesn't. I agree with those who say it's a way of stepping out of the fight in order to spark further action - if Google leaves or is forced to leave China, I think there will be some serious consequences afterwards.
I'm a Google user, and like a good friend, I will support their decision whether it suits me or not. I think the people who are leaving flowers are sad. Not just because the company might leave, but because of what it means about the situation we're in here in China. If Google does leave, I'll lay some flowers down too."