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Google Turns Off Chinese Web Site

Repairing Google China's Logo

Workers repair a partially broken marble tablet which bears Google's logo in front of Google China's headquarters building in Beijing, China.AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan

After a months-long battle between the world's most powerful Internet company and the world's most populous country, Google is taking its site off the mainland in an effort to skirt Chinese censorship, but remain present in the world's biggest Internet market.

Visitors to the site are redirected to Google's page for Hong Kong visitors instead, Google.com.hk -- an end run around around Chinese Web censorship. But even as Google shifts its search engine for China off the mainland, the company aims to maintain operations in the country. 

It's an attempt to balance the company's anti-censorship stance with its desire to profit from an explosively growing Internet market.

The compromise announced Monday resolves a 2 1/2-month impasse pitting the world's most powerful Internet company against the government of the world's most populous country.

But even as it maintains a presence in China, Google is still taking a risk that it will be less able to take advantage of opportunities in the market. A posting to the company's blog, where Google has announced most important changes to policy, details the company's plans.

"Earlier today we stopped censoring our search services—Google Search, Google News, and Google Images—on Google.cn. Users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong," explained David Drummond, the company's chief legal officer.

"We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we've faced—it's entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China."

China is accusing the company of violating written promises.

The statement Tuesday on the official Xinhua News Agency quoted an official at the Internet bureau under the State Council Information Office as saying "Google has violated its written promise it made when entering the Chinese market by stopping filtering its searching service and blaming China in insinuation for alleged hacker attacks."

The official continued: "This is totally wrong. We're uncompromisingly opposed to the politicization of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conducts."

Google has also made available a page that details which services are available in China. According to the page, Google's Web search engine, news service, and Gmail are available, while the blogging platform and YouTube are blocked.There are partial blocks on other sites such as Google Docs and Picasa.

The company plans to retain certain operations in China, however, explaining that "in terms of Google's wider business operations, we intend to continue R&D work in China and also to maintain a sales presence there, though the size of the sales team will obviously be partially dependent on the ability of mainland Chinese users to access Google.com.hk."

The U.S. State Department had indicated earlier Monday "strong indications" that Google would close its business in China and was on the verge of announcing its plans.

"As we have said throughout this process, this is a decision for Google to make," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday afternoon.

Another State Department spokesman, Gordon Duguid, said later Monday that the United States supports Google's decision.

But National Security Council Spokesman Mike Hammer voiced disappointment that Google and China weren't able to "reach an agreement that would allow Google to continue operating its search services in China on its google.cn Web site."

"We believe that freedom of expression and unfettered access to information are internationally recognized rights," Hammer said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.