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China officials warn Google to obey state Internet laws

[JURIST] Chinese officials on Tuesday repeated warnings to Google [corporate website] that even if the company decides to leave the country, it must obey Chinese laws [press release, in Chinese] and continue to filter search results. Spokesperson for China's Ministry of Commerce [official website, in Chinese] Yao Jian said that Google agreed to follow Chinese laws when it entered the market in 2006 and again warned the company to continue to respect [Reuters report] the country's legal regulations. Although Google has threatened to stop filtering search results, spokesperson for Google China Marsha Wang said Monday that the company is currently complying with censoring regulations [China Daily report] and has not received any instructions to shut down. Last week, China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology [official website, in Chinese] Li Yizhong [official profile, in Chinese] told reporters that a failure by Google to follow Chinese laws [AFP report] would result in consequences, but did not state any specific actions.

In February, China issued new regulations tightening restrictions on Internet use [JURIST report] by requiring citizens operating websites to submit identity cards and meet with regulators before their sites can be registered. The new policies came as the Chinese government continues negotiations with Google regarding the Internet company's January threat to discontinue operations in China [JURIST report] due to the country's overarching Internet censorship. Google's action was in response to a cyber attack on its Gmail service in December, which targeted the e-mail accounts of human rights activists in China and drew the ire of rights groups around the world. 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 [search engine] website. China responded [JURIST report] by reiterating its commitment to open Internet, but stressed that international Internet companies must follow Chinese law. A week later, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official website] referenced the threat [JURIST report] by Google in a speech promoting Internet freedom and criticizing censorship, declaring that China "risk[s] walling themselves off from the progress of the next century." Chinese Foreign Ministry [official website, in Chinese] spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu criticized Clinton for her remarks stating that they were harmful to bilateral relations between the US and China.

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