Google.cn Redirects to Hong Kong...For Now
In January of 2010, following attacks on Google's corporate infrastructure originating from China, Google made the fateful decision to stop censoring results on its Chinese-language Google.cn site. Just a few days ago, Google finally made good on its promise, shutting down its filter and redirecting traffic to Google.com.hk, Google's unfiltered site hosted in the Hong Kong SAR.
Google's choices following its announcement in January were few; they could either redirect Google.cn to a site hosted outside of the country, or stop offering a Chinese service entirely. According to blogger Andrew Lih, Google switched Hong Kong-based Google.com.hk over to simplified Chinese (from the traditional Chinese typically used in Hong Kong) in time for the redirect. Users accessing the Internet from behind China's Great Firewall (GFW) were thus able to access a simplified Chinese version of Google without the censored results.
For users within China, however, Google.com.hk is not without censorship. Whereas Google.cn's search results were filtered by Google itself, traffic to the site did not actually cross the Great Firewall because the site's servers were inside China. Google.com.hk, on the other hand, is hosted within the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which is not subject to China's stringent censorship laws. Still, because it is located on Hong Kong servers, users are still subject to the GFW when trying to access Google.com.hk and therefore may not be able to complete searches for keywords blocked by the GFW.
If users are able to circumvent the firewall, however, they will for the first time have complete access to search results in simplified Chinese on Google product.
A Big "If"
Google.cn was created in 2006 as an alternative to Google.com after users within China complained of Google.com being filtered sporadically. At the time of its inception, Google stated on their blog:
[The problem of filtering] could only be resolved by creating a local presence, and this week we did so, by launching Google.cn, our website for the People's Republic of China. In order to do so, we have agreed to remove certain sensitive information from our search results. We know that many people are upset about this decision, and frankly, we understand their point of view. This wasn't an easy choice, but in the end, we believe the course of action we've chosen will prove to be the right one.
Just as Google.com is subject to filtering, there is a strong chance that Google.com.hk will be too. The commercial viability of Google in the Chinese market is entirely up in the air, as is the fate of Google's research arm and any future ventures within China.