In breaking news Google has
just announced on their blog
that they may very soon close down their operations in China.
Why? Because a few months ago they discovered that an attack from a location in China had been launched against their corporate infrastructure.
The aim of the attack was to pull information about the emails sent and received by Chinese human rights activists using gmail. Google’s investigation into the attack also uncovered other monitoring of Chinese human right activists through gmail.
In response Google has stated
“We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results….
we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.”
While the news of further attacks on Chinese human rights activists’ privacy are distressing it is heartening to see Google taking such a brave position. In the course of my own work I frequently deal with Chinese human rights activists or Falun Gong members who have come to New Zealand fleeing persecution in China.
They seek my help with issues such as gaining residency (or refugee status) and getting their family members safely out of China. They often tell tales of shocking violence and persecution – torture, arrests without trial and harassment of family members.
It is time that governments around the world were brave enough to take a similar stance to Google and condemn the Chinese government’s infringements of human rights.