The face-off between Google and China is entering its final phase: Rumors are building that Google may announce its pull out of the country as soon as today. Meanwhile, China's netizens are desperately trying to make their voice heard.
Google seems to be playing is cards extremely close to its chest on this matter—and today, like much of the recent news, we're only learning about things via persons "familiar with the situation" who've spoken to the Financial Times. These insiders are saying that Google's on the point of revealing the closure of Google.cn, and its strategy for what happens next.
This is as close to the end game as we've got so far, and it was almost inevitable after China's moves over the last few weeks to strengthen its immovable position on self-censorship. With China apparently stubbornly defending its censorship above all other issues, and Google's management apparently resolute about their decision to not comply with censorship, the only way out is to close Google.cn. We'll all just have to watch the headlines today to see exactly how it plays out.
Meanwhile, China's netizens are complaining about all the smoke and mirrors surrounding the affair. As we've highlighted before China's Net users not only stand the most to lose from a Google pull out, but it could have far-reaching side-effects on human rights and freedom of speech within the country. Hence this open letter from a group of Chinese Internet users to both Google and China's authorities. The letter essentially lists the user's woes, starting with questions about understanding exactly what the disagreement between Google and the government is about (a matter which will have been reported differently inside China than in the rest of the World,) and moving on to questions about exactly what the government wanted censored.
The netizens' position is very carefully arranged in fact. They are resolute that China cannot censor important matters like the "Shanxi vaccine scandal" but argue that companies (both national and international) operating inside China should comply with censorship laws, wherever these are reasonable and not overly-restrictive. Hence within the scope of a single letter, the individuals have gently complained about China's authoritarian stance, and Google's obfuscations—which is probably about as challenging this letter can be without causing potential legal repercussions. It also makes it clear that Google's Chinese presence is seen as important to normal Chinese citizens, and this above all else highlights the true tragedy at the heart of this affair.
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