"Cannot display the web page".

Since early Tuesday, Web users attempting to access Google's Chinese website have been redirected to the search engine's Hong Kong version. It looks almost exactly the same, but the big difference is that it's uncensored. One of our Observers in Shanghai, Isaac Mao, explains what difference, if any, it will make to Chinese Web users.

Because of a 1997 handover agreement with the United Kingdom, the media in Hong Kong are not censored by the Chinese authorities. And that includes the Hong Kong version of Google. Web users redirected to the HK version are able to view results that Google haven't censored. But that doesn't mean they can view every page the search engine shows them. Whether Google displays them or not, Web pages about the Tiananmen Square massacre and the Dalai Lama will still lead to a "cannot display the web page" message if clicked on.

However symbolic the move may be, it is unlikely to have a practical effect for Chinese Web users eager for information.

“If you search something really sensitive like Tiananmen, you will be cut off; servers and browser”

Isaac Mao, a prominent blogger in China, sent us this comment by webcam at midday today (Tuesday):

Reports that the Chinese authorities are already going about blocking the Hong Kong version are beginning to trickle through. We haven't been able to confirm this yet. If you're in China and you are unable to view the Hong Kong version of Google, leave a comment.