Friday, January 15, 2010

BEIJING (AP) | In China’s first official response to Google’s threat to leave the country, the government Thursday said foreign Internet companies are welcome but must obey the law and gave no hint of a possible compromise over Web censorship.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu, without mentioning Google by name, said Beijing prohibits e-mail hacking, another issue cited by the company. She was responding to questions about Google at a regular ministry briefing.

“China’s Internet is open,” Ms. Jiang said. “China welcomes international Internet enterprises to conduct business in China according to law.”

Google Inc. said Tuesday it would stop censoring search results in China and might shut down its China-based site, citing attempts to break into accounts on its Gmail service used by human rights activists.

Ms. Jiang gave no indication whether the government had talked with Google. The state-run Xinhua News Agency said earlier that officials were seeking more information about its announcement.

The main Communist Party newspaper warned companies to obey government controls.

In Washington, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the U.S. backs Google’s decision to no longer support China’s censorship. Asked whether the issue would cloud U.S.-China relations, Mr. Gibbs told reporters that President Obama had strong beliefs about the universal rights of men and women worldwide which would not be “carved out” for certain countries, Reuters news agency reported.

Also Thursday, a law professor and human rights lawyer, Teng Biao, wrote on his blog that someone broke into his Gmail account and forwarded e-mail to another account. Mr. Teng said he did not know whether he was one of two Chinese activists mentioned by Google as hacking targets.

Another Beijing human rights lawyer, Jiang Tianyong, says his Gmail account was hacked in November and important materials taken, the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said.

Outside the Google offices, some visitors poured small glasses of liquor, a Chinese funeral ritual.

“Google is the true hero in this silent city,” said a note left outside the building in the capital’s Haidian technology district. Referring to the government Web filter, popularly known as the “Great Firewall,” another note said, “The tallest walls cannot divide people’s sentiments. Google: Bye, let’s meet on the other side of the wall.”

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