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China hacking of activists' e-mail prompts Google exit threat

[JURIST] One month after hackers attempted to access Chinese human rights activists' e-mail accounts through the Google [corporate website] Gmail service, the company announced [press release] on Tuesday that it would rethink its involvement in the Internet market in China, possibly pulling out of the country. Among the possible changes in policy being considered are a cessation of search result censoring. Google indicated that it would work with the Chinese government to find a way to allow an, "unfiltered search engine within the law as well," but also noted that if an agreement cannot be reached, it may close its offices there and shut down its Google.cn website. Human rights groups applauded Google's announcement, with Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] calling the move [press release] "unprecedented."

The attack on activists' accounts is the latest in a long string of purported human rights abuses in China. Last month, China was criticized for executing a British national [JURIST report] for drug smuggling, after refusing to conduct an investigation into the man's mental health. Also in December, human rights activist Liu Xiabo was sentenced to 11 years in prison on subversion charges, following a two-hour trial [JURIST reports] that was closed to outsiders. In November, HRW released a report [JURIST report] that accused China of holding citizens in "black jails," where they were subject to numerous human rights abuses.

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