Google Stops Redirecting China Queries to Hong Kong Site In Hope For Licence Renewal

Google announced it is making changes to its approach in China. At stake: its ability to apply for - and hopefully obtain - the renewal of its Internet Content Provider (ICP) licence with the Chinese authorities. The deadline is tomorrow. The clock's ticking.

What Happened Then
Let's rewind first. Back in March, as Jack Marshall reported on ClickZ, Google started automatically redirecting users of its mainland China engine to its Hong Kong-based service. The move came after attacks to its systems in China in December but more importantly, the Hong Kong service,, was a way for Google to provide mainland users with uncensored content.

Here's what the Honk Kong landing page looks like in Chinese:

Google China hkg chinese.JPG

What's Happening Now
However, addressing the issue in a blog post, David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer indicated that Chinese authorities "find the redirect unacceptable." "... if we continue redirecting users our Internet Content Provider license will not be renewed (it's up for renewal on June 30). Without an ICP license, we can't operate a commercial website like -- so Google would effectively go dark in China," he added. Surely, Google cannot afford to be shut out of the world's biggest market.

Therefore, pleading Google's case on the blog, Drummond said that the company has started implementing an opt-in system, giving "a small percentage" of users the choice to pursue their searches - or not - onto the Hong Kong site.

Here's what the new landing page looks like in English

Google China.JPG

The next step will be for the search giant to "end the redirect entirely," he said, adding that Google had today "re-submitted its ICP license renewal application based on this approach." He noted that the company is intent on pursuing its research and development work in China - read: funds inflow to the country to sustain the company's R&D operations. Google remains true to its "commitment not to self censor" while abiding to local law - it pleaded, hoping for its licence to be renewed.

What would the search landscape look like if - and only if - Google were not granted renewal of its ICP licence in China?

About the author

Liva Judic joined Search Engine Watch and ClickZ in May 2010 as a news blogger. She has lived and worked across the globe in Madagascar, Switzerland, London, NYC, Asia and is now based in between New York and Berlin.

Her background is in government relations and financial media where she started out as a journalist at Bloomberg and became senior editor at AFX news (now part of ThomsonReuters). Prior to forming her own consultancy Judic was head of international PR for a head of state.

Judic focuses on facilitating brand and marketing transitioning for European startups moving to the US. She has been named one of the Top 50 Industry Influencers of 2014 by AGBeat