Action over China is long overdue
There are around 1.3 billion people who live in China, not one of whom is likely to be able to read this blog. That’s got less to do with whether Google opts to pull its operations out of China, and more to do with the ‘Great Firewall of China’ in particular, and the Chinese regime’s lack of respect for freedom of speech in general.
Nevertheless, it must be increasingly difficult for Google to defend its decision to operate in China, and in so doing comply with the Chinese authorities’ insistence that the search engine giant, too, censor the search results that the people of China are able to see.
Indeed, Google’s decision to open an office in China made it a mere pawn in China’s attempts to repress free speech. No surprise, then, that Google’s decision to operate in China was widely criticised when it was first announced. Had Google been around during the Apartheid years of South Africa – which saw the censorship of books, magazines and other literature deemed destabilising by the then South African government – one must wonder whether Google would have operated there if it meant helping to enforce such restrictions, and thereby helping to repress freedom of speech and the anti-Apartheid movement.
So the fact that Google is only now threatening to pull out of China – and only after serious cyber-attacks on Google and 30 other Silicon Valley firms – will do little to reassure civil liberties campaigners. They justifiably argue that Google, in its dealings with China so far, has done little more than put its profits above all else.
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