Page last updated at 15:17 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

China warns Google to comply with censorship laws

China flag/Google China (AP)

China's top internet official has warned that Google will "pay the consequences" if it continues to go against Chinese law.

Google announced in January that it would no longer comply with China's internet censorship laws.

It warned that it may shut down because of censorship and a hacking attack on the portal.

Minister of Industry and Information Technology Li Yizhong was speaking at China's annual legislation session.

"We need to preserve our nation's interest, our people's interest, we cannot be relaxed with any information that will cause harm to the stability of our society, to our system, and to the health of our under-age young people," he said.

"So, of course, what needs to be shut down will be shut down, what needs to be blocked will be blocked."

'Up to them'

Google began operations in China in 2006 to widespread criticism. While many argued Google was complicit in the censorship imposed by Chinese government, Google insisted it was nevertheless serving the public interest even though it was furnishing censored results.

Relations between China and Google cooled in January after what Google described as a sophisticated cyber attack in which the webmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists were targeted.

Since then, the firm has been in talks with Chinese officials about how to provide an unfiltered service but still remain within the law. Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said this week that he hoped the results of those consultations would be revealed soon.

Mr Li said that whether the firm quits China or not is "up to them", saying the internet would flourish in China regardless.

"I hope that Google will abide and respect the Chinese government's laws and regulations," he said.

"But, if you betray Chinese laws and regulations... it means that you are unfriendly, irresponsible, and you will have to pay the consequences."

Google is a distant second in search engine stakes in China, holding less than a third of the market; rival Baidu has about 60%.

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