Google Facing Many Risks in China Standoff

Reuters reports on the challenges facing Google since the company announced it would no longer operate a censored search engine in China:

Despite early reports suggesting Google had lifted filters on certain search results, the company insists it has made zero changes to its Chinese search engine and that it remains in dialogue with Beijing. Otherwise, executives have mostly been tight-lipped about the entire affair.

That guarded, restrained approach reflects the thorny legal issues surrounding the situation and the high stakes involved in its standoff with China, the world’s No. 3 economy and largest Internet market by users.

Many analysts believe the Chinese government would have no qualms shutting down an uncensored search engine. But experts on Chinese law warn that Google employees in China could also face prosecution for breaking the law.

China’s detention of four Rio Tinto employees including Australian Stern Hu in July on accusations of illegally obtaining commercial secrets amid contentious iron ore contract negotiations has underscored the risk when business matters cross into politically sensitive areas.

“If they have a lot of personnel in China and they suddenly decide to change what they’re doing in a way that was not permitted by the Chinese government, then that could lead to problems,” said Donald Clarke, a professor of Chinese law at George Washington University Law School, noting Google staff could be at risk of everything from arrest to harassment.

See also “Google Asks Spy Agency for Help With Inquiry Into Cyberattacks” from the New York Times.

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