BEIJING -- Google on Tuesday postponed the planned launch of its mobile phone in China amid a dispute with the government over Internet censorship and e-mail hacking that the search giant says may force it to leave the country.
"It is postponed," Google Inc. spokeswoman Marsha Wang said. She said a launch ceremony planned for Wednesday was canceled but declined to give a reason for the decision or to say when the launch might be rescheduled.
Also Tuesday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said the search giant must obey China's laws and traditions, suggesting the government was giving no ground in talks over Internet censorship and Google's threat to pull out of the country.
It was the government's first direct comment on Google since the U.S. company said Jan. 12 it would no longer censor search results in China and might shut down its China-based site Google.cn. The announcement prompted an outpouring of support from Chinese Web surfers, who left flowers at Google offices and pleaded with the company to stay.
Google's phone is an effort by the company to join in competition for a share of China's mobile phone market, which is the world's most populous.
Google's announcement shocked the international business community and cheered many free-speech advocates.
The Chinese government blocks access to Web sites abroad run by human rights groups and dissidents and material deemed subversive or pornographic.