Google's services for Chinese users remained accessible in China in the half-day after the company closed a censored version of its search engine, but users still worried that angered authorities could move to block Google sites.
Google's Hong Kong-based search site stayed available in China after Google started redirecting visitors there from its China-based search engine, Google.cn, even though the Hong Kong site returns sensitive results that China usually requires online search providers to filter out.
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Google announced the change in a blog post this week, making good on a pledge it made in January to stop censoring in China. China criticized Google's move but has not hinted at any planned actions against the company.
One way China could respond is by blocking the Google Hong Kong site altogether, said David Wolf, CEO of Wolf Group Asia, a Beijing technology consultancy. Google drew unwelcome attention to its plans for Google.cn by making them public before discussing them with China.
"It has essentially, shall we say, invited the wrath of the dragon upon it," Wolf said.
But China could also rely on keyword blocking to prevent access to sensitive information through Google's Hong Kong search engine, he said. "It really all depends on whether China wishes to strike a tit-for-tat blow, or whether China's interested in showing that they're not quite as bad as everybody would paint them."
China resets connections for users in the country whenever they contact an overseas server with a query containing sensitive keywords such as Falun Gong, the name of a spiritual movement banned as a cult in China. China also blocks access inside the country to Web sites ranging from Twitter and Facebook to the official Web site of the Dalai Lama. Both types of blocking affect searches on Google's Hong Kong site, Google.com.hk, so users may not be able to access certain search results even if the search engine itself does not censor them.