Google says Beijing has renewed the licence it needs to continue operating a website in China, securing the search giant’s foothold in the country’s fast-growing Internet market despite tensions over censorship.
The renewal of the licence to provide internet content had been in doubt due to the rocky relations between Google and Chinese authorities over hacking of Gmail accounts and censorship of Google search results.
“We are very pleased that the government has renewed our ICP (Internet content provider) licence and we look forward to continuing to provide web search and local products to our users in China,” said an emailed statement by Google’s top lawyer, David Drummond.
The statement, which gave no other details, also was posted on Google’s blog. There was no immediate statement posted on the website of China’s ministry of industry and information technology.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt said on Thursday he expected Beijing to renew the license.
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Google closed its China search engine in March but has wanted to keep a website that offers music and other services. Users had been automatically redirected to Google’s uncensored Hong Kong site, but the company stopped that last week after Chinese officials warned the move could mean losing its licence.
Google’s relations with Beijing have been rocky since the US search giant said it no longer wanted to cooperate with government Internet censorship. The announcement was prompted by cyber attacks the company traced to China.
The conflict has posed a balancing act for Google. The company wants to uphold the principle of free access to information while also keeping a foothold in a market that has nearly 400 million web users, the world’s biggest.
Google, based in Mountain View, California, does not hold the kind of dominant position in the Chinese search market that it does in the US. The search engine operated by Chinese competitor Baidu has about 60 per cent of the market to Google’s 30 per cent.